Summer or winter, air pollution trends across the seasons in Dhaka. And this year-round air pollution is largely attributed to the same emissions -- construction and road dust.
Construction dust is basically silica dust prevalent at construction sites and is often held responsible for health conditions like asthma. Leftover construction waste also adds dust to air.
Road dust, on the other hand, is loose soil on broken or unpaved roads, and includes vehicular emissions to an extent.
Experts, however, claim to have a quick fix solution for Dhaka's air pollution that peaks during winter and prevails in summer too -- sprinkling water on all construction sites, public or private, and roads to settle dust.
MA Matin, former general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), told UNB that air pollution is increasing day by day in Dhaka due to the absence of an effective control mechanism.
"Dust and sand particles cause air pollution but the city's two civic bodies have to take concrete steps to control the same. The pollution has hazardous health implications that can cause death directly or indirectly."
Professor Dr Najmul Islam, director of the Disease Control Department of the Health Directorate, echoed similar voice.
"Pollutants are getting mixed with foods and triggering serious health issues -- from asthma to lung disease and kidney failure. It's high time that the pollution was curbed," he said.
Bangladesh Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin urged all agencies concerned to act in a coordinated manner to control pollution.
"Time and again, we have set up several camps in Dhaka and other big cities to determine the air quality level. However, it did not work and we now need coordinated steps to curb pollution," he said.
According to the Minister, it's the responsibility of the two city corporations to keep its roads clean every day. "They must also sprinkle water on the roads to bring down the dust," he said.
"Several decisions were taken at the inter-ministerial meetings to curb air pollution. Implementation of the measures can give effective results but there is no alternative to coordinated efforts of all agencies."
Dust pollution from construction sites
The Minister pointed out that construction sites across the city produce dust, one of the major reasons for air pollution in Dhaka.
"In other countries, we have observed that protective measures are taken around the construction sites. Open air construction of buildings, infrastructure development works have risen in the city. RAJUK has to play a more effective role in this regard," he said.
He said to curb the city's pollution, government and private organisations have to comply with effective environmental measures, transporting soil, sand and other construction materials following proper protocols, and spraying water in big infrastructure and development projects.
Shahab Uddin said that the Metro Rail construction work in the capital, going on since 2016, is also worsening Dhaka's air.
"We have warned the Meto Rail Authority several times by sending them letters from the Department of Environment," said the Minister. Closed construction is the best way for curbing pollution, he added.
Unplanned brick kilns
Unplanned brick kilns on the outskirts of the metropolis also contribute to pollution.
"Already 80% of the country's brick kilns have been modernised using technologies that are environment friendly. Soon all of them will have to produce concrete block bricks which are made by casting rather than burning mud bricks," the Minister said.
Maintenance work in the city
The Environment Minister also blamed unplanned digging of roads in the name of maintenance and drainage works by Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) for the city's pollution problem.
"To prevent air pollution, the maintenance work needs to be conducted in a planned manner and in coordination with private and public bodies," he said.
The Minister also said both the civic bodies in Dhaka would need to immediately put an end to their mismanaged garbage disposal system.
The response of authorities concerned
Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mayor Atiqul Islam told UNB that a water-spraying initiative to minimise dust pollution has already been undertaken. He attributed the city's poor air quality to the Metro Rail project.
"Nine imported sweeping vehicles with brush and water spraying technology will soon be put to use on Dhaka's roads to help minimise the dust pollution."
RAJUK chairman ABM Aman Ullah Nuri blamed the lack of human resources of the organisation for its inability to monitor the huge number of construction projects in and around the city on a regular basis.
"While giving approval to building designs, we give directions to make the construction work eco-friendly," he said, vowing to take strict action against violators.
Meanwhile Tajul Islam, Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives, said, "Directions will be given for spraying water on the city's roads."
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