Read the original article on The Daily Star
In its latest move against air pollution, the government is setting up six air-quality monitoring centres at different places of the country including Dhaka to better identify the extent of toxicity–the key reason behind respiratory illnesses and chronic bronchitis.
Officials at the Continuous Air Monitoring Stations (CAMS) equipped with advanced machinery will collect and analyse data on pollution taking place in the areas while will also suggest the authorities concerned possible measures to contain its adverse effects.
The initiative is being implemented under the Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (CASE) project of the Department of Environment (DoE) in Dhaka, Gazipur, Narayanganj, Chittagong, Sylhet and Barisal.
The stations may come into operation within two to three months, according to the project officials.
Of the existing five such stations across the country — two in Dhaka and one each in Chittagong, Rajshahi and Khulna — two are out of order. These run-down stations, one in Dhaka and the other in Khulna, would either be replaced or repaired.
These were installed between 2002 and 2006 under Air Quality Management Project (AQMP), which was in effect before the CASE project.
The CAMS initiative is in progress at a time when Bangladesh ranked 131st among 132 countries in controlling air pollution with regard to its effect on human health, according to 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI). India holds the very last position in controlling air pollution.
Air pollution, having a strong negative impact on health, is the major cause of erosion of human productivity and even death, particularly among children and pregnant women of the urban areas and those of the poor and marginalised communities.
A recent study of the CASE project finds the huge number of vehicles — most of which are unfit and run by diesel, brick kilns and industries emitting hazardous toxic gases behind the critical status of air pollution in the country.
People around the places where construction of buildings and roads are taking place are highly affected by the dust in the air.
The extent of air pollution is highest in capital Dhaka while Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and Rajshahi are also facing contamination which is increasing. The air is polluted by the excess amount of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and hydrocarbon, which are responsible for health hazards.
A joint project of the government with the World Bank found that some 15,000 people face premature death due to the fall in air quality when several millions undergo pulmonary, respiratory and neurological illnesses.
Living standards in Dhaka has been said to be deteriorating gradually with unplanned urbanisation, lack of utilities and burden of overpopulation.
Dhaka in several other recent surveys too ranked among the least liveable cities in the world in terms of environment, standard of infrastructure and other civic facilities.
The CASE study of mid 2011 finds that Dhaka is bearing a huge burden of old fleet of diesel-run buses and trucks using high sulphur fuel and adulterated lubricants.
After the introduction of CNG as fuel and phasing out of two-stroke vehicles in 2003 from Dhaka, the situation improved; but the air pollution level started to move upward with the increasing number of vehicles, improper traffic and parking management system and irregular maintenance of vehicles.
Most of the light vehicles in Dhaka and Chittagong run on CNG while the local vehicles in Cox’s Bazar and Rajshahi use petrol or diesel. In all these places, air pollution level is high due to the fuel oil-run buses, trucks and those old and unfit motorbikes mainly seen in Rajshahi.
To address the immense vehicular pollution, the DoE’s magistrates and those of the BRTA, the transport authority, carry out mobile courts across the country, such operations against the polluters is not regular though.
Besides penalising owners of vehicles, the DoE also fines the owners of brickfields where emission of heavy smoke is seen due to violation institutional, legal and regulatory framework for brick manufacturing.
Many of over 1,100 brickfields across the country are still using woods to burn bricks while some using coal.
The DoE is now working on the issue to promote adoption of cleaner technologies. The CASE project supports a whole range of activities including introduction of energy-efficient brick making technologies and also demonstrating the viability of alternative building materials.
Considering the current status of air pollution in the country, the DoE focuses mainly on vehicular pollution. The CASE project, meanwhile, recommends that the old diesel-driven vehicles are phased out immediately; carrying out testing or checking of vehicles in the major cities and awareness campaigns on vehicular emission, and maintenance.