Air pollution in the capital city has reached an intolerable level. Dhaka has been ranked the worst in Air Quality Index (AQI) this week, with a score of 242 at 8am, which means that air quality here is 'very unhealthy'.
India's Delhi, Pakistan's Lahore and Mongolia's Ulaanbaatar occupied the next three slots with scores of 211, 198 and 198 respectively. It may be mentioned here that when the AQI value is between 201 and 300, every city dweller may begin to experience adverse health effects.
The AQI, an index for reporting daily air quality, tells people how clean or polluted the air of a certain city is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for them. Bangladesh's overcrowded capital has been grappling with air pollution for a long time. The quality usually improves during the monsoon.
Meantime, the country's High Court (HC) has asked the government to constitute a high-powered committee to formulate a guideline in order to reduce air pollution in and around Dhaka city. It passed the order this week following the capital's worsening air quality in recent times. The court also asked the proposed committee to submit a report within 30 days and fixed January 05 next year for further hearing on the matter.
The HC also ordered the authorities concerned to conduct mobile courts to shut down illegal brick fields in five districts, including Dhaka, within 15 days. The four other districts are Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Gazipur and Manikganj where brick kilns are largely contributing to polluting air. The World Bank's environment department recently reported air pollution of Dhaka and identified brick kilns as the number-one polluter. It conducted a research on the sources of air pollution in Bangladesh in early 2019.
According to WB research findings, the three main sources are brick kilns, fumes of vehicles and dust from construction sites. The dust particles are contributing to the city's worsening air pollution due to construction works without putting the site under cover.
According to the AQI, the air pollution level across the world varies from hour to hour and day to day. In late February this year, according to the same index, Dhaka ranked as the most polluted city in the world with a score of 339 and its air was classified as "very unhealthy."
Along with air pollution, noise pollution -- also known as sound pollution -- has turned acute in the capital as it always goes far beyond the permissible level, putting the public health at risk. The survey, conducted at 70 points of the city, reveals that sound pollution has reached the highest 120-130 decibels (dB) at many points -- almost double the permissible level.
According to a survey, about 10 per cent of the city dwellers are now hearing-impaired and 35 per cent suffer from low-hearing problem due to high noise pollution. Although the government announced the Noise Pollution (Control) Rules 2006 to protect public health from sound pollution, it has failed to enforce the rule.
Clearly, noise pollution in the city has gone beyond control due to lax enforcement of the rules by the authorities concerned and lack of awareness among people about the rules. Drivers of vehicles unnecessarily use their hydraulic horns to create blaring noise. People of the city, predominantly students, can't concentrate on their studies and are unable to sleep due to the loud sound of horns.
Around 25 per cent of the surveyed people of Dhaka city suffer from lung function abnormalities due to air pollution. Such lung function abnormalities cause different types of airborne diseases, like bronchiolitis, pneumonia, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The government should therefore consider amending the drug policy again, restoring its role of price fixer of medicines it was in the original drug policy, in the interest of the country's teeming millions who often suffer because of abrupt and irrational increase in the prices of medicines.