City dwellers breathing ‘extremely unhealthy air’

Rafiqul Islam
Thursday, December 1st, 2016
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Dhaka may experience Beijing-like-situation, warns expert


With the onset of dry season, the air quality in the capital has started deteriorating due to unchecked discharge of dust from construction works and release of pollutants from vehicles and nearby brick kilns.


Official data shows that the air of the capital was ‘extremely unhealthy’ on November 22 (Tuesday last) posing a severe health threat to city dwellers.


The Air Quality Index (AQI), being released on pilot basis under the CASE Project of the Department of Environment (DoE), found that AQI was 309 in the capital’s air on Tuesday last against the moderate AQI range of 51-100, cautioning that the air city dwellers are currently breathing is extremely unhealthy.


Abdus Salam, a passerby who was walking through the footpath near Malibagh area on Thursday, said he has to use this route on official purposes every day. “But, when I travel through adjoining Malibagh-Moghbazar flyover areas, I get exposed to dust severely. And I’ve no option but to wear mask to save me from dust,” he said.


He said if he does not use mask to protect him from dust generated from construction works, he frequently suffers from breathing problems.


Like Salam, many city dwellers, particularly old aged and children, suffer from respiratory diseases during the dry season after they breathe the lousy air.


According to experts, road dust has become the biggest source of pollution in the capital during the dry season for various unplanned construction works. The air pollution originating from construction work-related processes like concrete crushing, cement batching and road stone plants, is contributing to the air pollution.


Currently, a huge dust is being generated from many ongoing mega development projects like Malibagh-Moghbazar flyover project and metro rail project, and road repair works and construction work as well.


“PM10 (dust) originates from both human and natural sources such as motor vehicles, brick kilns, garbage burning, construction work, re-suspended dust from roads and windblown dust,” said Bidya Banmali Pradhan, an associate coordinator (Atmosphere Initiative) of Katmandu-based think tank International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).


She said dust is a major component of air pollution that threatens both human health and environment.


“The brickfields set up surrounding capital Dhaka are using low-quality coal in baking bricks, which contributes to city’s air pollution. Development works continue in the city, but there’s no maintenance of those, generating dust. Unfit vehicles plying the city streets also polluting air,” former DoE additional director general Engr Abdus Sobhan told UNB.


He said the dust deposits on the leaves of plants and trees disrupt the photosynthesis process of the trees, affecting their growth.


About the adverse impacts of air pollution on human health, an expert of World Health Organization (WHO) said a huge number of old aged people and children in the city have been suffering from respiratory diseases such as emphysema, bronchitis and asthma due to the growing dust pollution. And the number of such patients is on the rise, he added.


“As concentration of dust particles in air is increasing day by day, most of city dwellers are suffering common cold and cough problems…dust generates wax in human ears. So, patients of ear-infection are also increasing here,” said Dr Mahfuzur Rahman Bhuiyan, the grants manager of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK).


DoE additional director general Quazi Sarwar Imtiaz Hashmi warned that if the trend of air and dust pollution continues here, the capital may experience Beijing-like-situation (extremely polluted air that the Chinese city faces every dry season) in the coming days.


The DoE will soon hold a meeting with relevant stakeholders to find a way how air and dust pollution could be checked in the capital, he said, adding that after the meeting, the DoE may conduct drives against polluters, who generate dust polluting the air.

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