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5 April, 2021 06:54:33 PM

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Growing concern for air pollution, the silent killer

The US-based Health Effects Institute and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation mentioned in the last year that South Asia is the most polluted region in the world in terms of air. The situation is especially dire in Bangladesh, with air pollution leading to 1.73 lakh deaths in the last year
Md. Zillur Rahaman
Growing concern for air pollution, the silent killer

An alarming piece of news recently published in the media by IQAir's global air quality data platform in its World Air Quality Report 2020 unveiled that the air quality of Bangladesh was the worst in the world, while its capital Dhaka was the second most air polluted city in 2020 and South Asia remained the most polluted region of the world with Bangladesh, India and Pakistan sharing 42 of the 50 most polluted cities worldwide. Experts said Bangladesh has ranked top of the worst polluted countries since 2018 and this result showed that the situation did not improve in recent years at all. 

Researchers from IQAir, a global air quality information and Swiss-based tech company, analysed the pollution data from 106 countries, specifically measuring PM 2.5, a microscopic pollutant that can cause serious health risks.

The report also alarmed the average annual PM 2.5 concentrations in Bangladesh was 77.1 microgrammes per cubic metre (mcg/m3) of air, which is seven times above WHO exposure recommendation. An estimated 13-22 percent of deaths in this region are linked to the health effects of air pollution exposure, with associated estimated costs equating to 7.4 percent of the region's GDP.

In 2020, all Indian cities that were monitored observed air quality improvements compared to 2018, while 63 percent saw improvements over 2019. The report mentioned with annual average PM 2.5 concentrations of 77.1 microgrammes per cubic metre, Dhaka ranked the second most polluted capital cities in the world, while Delhi with an average annual PM 2.5 concentrations of 84.1 microgrammes per cubic metre topped the list. According to the report, only 24 out of 106 monitored countries met World Health Organisation (WHO) annual guidelines for PM 2.5 in 2020.

The US-based Health Effects Institute and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation mentioned in the last year that South Asia is the most polluted region in the world in terms of air. The situation is especially dire in Bangladesh, with air pollution leading to 1.73 lakh deaths in the last year, and with the entire population living in areas where the air quality is not considered safe at all. The report also mentioned that air pollution has become the second leading health risk factor after high blood pressure in Bangladesh, and that our life expectancy would have seen the highest expected gain of nearly 1.3 years if the air pollution level met the WHO guidelines.

One of the major causes for Dhaka to dominate the list of most polluted cities in the world is the rise in commercial and construction activities in recent years. The two major sources of air pollutants in the city come from industrial and vehicular emissions. The vicinity of Dhaka has around 2,295 brick kilns which emit fine particles in the air. Also sharing the blame for air pollution, the ongoing metro rail construction project has led to traffic congestions in most of the significant parts of the city.

Apart from that, smoking, burning of fossil fuels from air conditioners, coal-fired power plants and outdoor burning—burning of municipal and agricultural waste—emit nitrogen oxides rendering the air quality of the metropolis “unhealthy” which acts as a silent killer and considered seriously health hazards ingredients.

Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a variety of adverse health outcomes. It increases the risk of respiratory infections, heart disease and lung cancer. Both short and long term exposure to air pollutants have been associated with health impacts. More severe impacts affect people who are already ill. Children, the elderly and poor people are more susceptible. The most health-harmful pollutants, closely associated with excessive premature mortality, are fine PM2.5 particles that penetrate deep into lung passageways. 

The High Court ordered the authorities concerned on November 26, 2019 to shut down all the illegal brick kilns in Dhaka and its surrounding areas to reduce air pollution in the capital city. The court also ordered the government to form a committee to identify the causes of air pollution and formulate a guideline for reducing it in capital Dhaka and also instructed the Department of Environment (DoE) to conduct mobile court drives twice a week to take legal action against those responsible for air pollution in the capital.

According to a report of the World Bank and the DoE on air pollution in Dhaka, the number one reason of air pollution is brick kilns and a Norwegian specialist also mentioned in a study that 52% of the air pollution in the capital city is caused by brick kilns. Actually, we have a serious apathy regarding the environmental related laws and its proper awareness. We have also a negative attitude to clean road in the city or town and also pollution free in the river. 

But while we go to foreign countries, then we obey the laws of foreign country but in our country we show our serious negligence to the environmental related factors. Frequently, we are putting out the dust in the open thoroughfares, industrial toxic water is pushing out in the river, destroying forest without any reason and proper assessment, pilling up structure in vacant land without any proper approval and so many functions against to the environment. 

According to the UN, nine out of every ten people breathe unclean air globally and air pollution causes an estimated seven million premature deaths every year, predominantly in low and middle-income countries. Air pollution contributes to heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases; it also threatens the economy, food security and the environment and the air pollution is considered as silent killer of the world. As we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the world needs to pay far greater attention to air pollution, which also increases the risks associated with COVID-19. So, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will also help to reduce air pollution, death and disease.

Basically, we did not see any concrete steps that can help reduce the air pollution. Even if there are some steps taken by the government to improve the air quality, it seems that the steps are not enough and serious. Air pollution is not just an environmental issue; it is a major source of public health plight and at this stage, the authorities should treat it as an emergency and take immediate steps.

The writer is a banker and contributor. E-mail: [email protected]

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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