Amid unchecked discharge of dust from construction works, rundown roads and many other sources, environment and health experts have said the city dwellers brace for a terrible dust pollution in the capital in the upcoming winter if proper steps are not taken to deal with it.
They said this is no longer an environmental issue as it is going to emerge as a major public health concern.
They suggested the authorities concerned, including the Department of Environment (DoE), to take an effective action plan and strengthen its monitoring system to reduce the dust pollution across the city.
While moving in different city areas recently, the UNB correspondents found dust was swirling everywhere due to unplanned construction of buildings and roads and footpaths and the absence of monitoring and enforcement of laws.
DoE officials said they will soon hold meetings with relevant departments and agencies to reduce dust pollution with coordinated efforts.
According to a report of World Health Organisation (WHO) released in May this year, Dhaka’s air quality ranked as the third most polluted in the world.
Another WHO report, published in 2016, says over 37,000 Bangladeshis die annually from diseases related to air pollution.
Talking to UNB, environment expert Ainun Nishat, Professor Emeritus at BRAC University, said the dust pollution is gradually growing here. “The situation is going to take a turn for the worse during the dry season seriously affecting the public health if effective steps are not taken immediately to reduce it.”
He said it is possible to control the air pollution, mainly the unusual growth of dust, if the authorities concerned play their due role in a coordinated way.
The environment expert said the government needs to take quick measures to check pollution by brick kilns, vehicles and road and building construction.
Ainun Nishat thinks the roads in the capital city need to be swept with water every day, especially during the dry season, to minimise the dust pollution. “If you look at rooms at city homes or offices, you’ll see a layer of dust, which is later transmitted into human body, causing various diseases.”
Besides, he said, relevant laws should be enforced strictly to force the builders and constructors to build roads and buildings following rules and regulations like covering construction sites and spraying water to control dust.
General Secretary of Bangladesh of Paribesh Andolan (Bapa) MA Matin said dust pollution is on the rise for lack of good governance, preventive measures, action plans, initiatives and enforcement of law. “I think the government and its relevant agencies are not sincere to deal with the dust pollution.”
He said the situation will worsen further during the dry season — from mid-October to March — for inadequate rainfall.
“As the government’s development activities marked a sharp rise, pollution also got increased. We’re not against development, but it has to be done protecting the environment,” Matin observed.
He said the two Dhaka city corporations neither can properly clean up roads nor can ensure a proper waste management, causing a rise in the dust pollution. There’s also no step to check the release of pollutants and black smokes from different industries, vehicles, water vessels and nearby brick kilns.”
Matin suggested using modern techniques for cleaning up the city roads, spraying water to stop dust from spreading during construction works and keeping construction materials and sites under cover with the enforcement of law and proper monitoring.
DoE Director (Air Quality Management) Ziaul Haque said five major reasons are behind the worsening air pollution — brick kiln, construction, road digging, building construction, black smoke of vehicles, and waste and cement.
He said they have sent a letter to different agencies and bodies, including Rajuk, two city corporations, LGED, Public Works department, Housing authorities, Titas Gas and Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (Rehab) to sign deals with builders and constructors to prevent dust pollution during the construction of building, roads and implementing other development projects.
The DoE director said a coordinated effort by all the relevant department and agencies is a must to ensure proper monitoring and take effective steps and their implementation to reduce dust pollution.
Contacted, Environment and Forest Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud said they are working out various legal steps and plans to check air pollution caused by building and road constructions during the dry season.
The minister said though there is building code and rules and regulations to carry out construction work protecting environment, these are not followed. “We’ll increase our monitoring to check the dust pollution.”
Director General of the Directorate General Health service (DGHS) Prof Abul Kalam Azad said dust pollution causes serious harm to public health. “People are getting affected with serious diseases like lung problems, cancer, respiratory problems due to dust pollution.”
Dr Imrul Haque of ENT department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University said the number of patients suffering from asthma, pneumonia, obstructive lung diseases, bronchitis, lung cancer and lower respiratory infection has been on the rise in the city due to the growing dust pollution, and the situation will deteriorate during the dry season.unb