When there is a brief spell of showers during the sultry weather in Dhaka, city dwellers welcome it as they heave a sigh of relief with the brief respite from the perennial dust and scorching heat, which is exactly what happened on Tuesday.
After days of scorching heat, a dust storm, coupled with light rains, swept over different parts of Dhaka on Tuesday afternoon, offering much-sought relief to city residents.
However, experts fear that things will start getting worse. With heavy rain, many areas are getting swamped with rainwater like in previous years, due to a poor drainage system and unplanned city development.
They also said the severity of dust pollution eases during the rainy season, but it is a matter of deep concern that there is no visible step taken by the authorities concerned, to keep air pollution in check, instead of only looking to nature to solve this problem.
According to them, air pollution originating from construction processes like concrete crushing, cement batching, and road stone planting, is depriving city dwellers of fresh air.
Mercury to fall slightly
Amid a mild heat wave sweeping over Dhaka and some other parts of Bangladesh, the capital city experienced 3.2mm of rain on Tuesday.
Talking to UNB, Abdur Rahman, a meteorologist at the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) said, a trough of westerly low pressure lies over West Bengal and adjoining areas, and a seasonal low over southern Bay of Bengal, which may bring rain over parts of the country, including Dhaka.
He said light rain or thunder showers, accompanied by temporary gusty wind, are likely in the city on Wednesday as well.
Due to the rain, he said the mercury will continue to fall slightly over the next two or three days.
Rahman said the mercury was maintaining its upward trend for the last few days as a mild heat wave prevailed over different parts of Bangladesh, including Dhaka, making daily life miserable.
He said Dhaka's temperature was recorded at 36.4 degrees Celsius on Monday, 34.4 degrees on Sunday, and 34.1 degrees on Saturday.
During the rain, many city dwellers were seen out on the streets and on rooftops, gladly getting drenched.
Rain eases dust hazard
Tuesday's light showers gave city dwellers a short respite from dust pollution which has turned acute in the city for various reasons, including unplanned construction work and lack of maintenance and proper steps by the authorities concerned.
Urban experts and green activists said road dust has become the biggest source of pollution in Dhaka, posing a severe health threat to city dwellers.
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Tuesday's light showers gave city dwellers a short respite from dust pollution | UNB
Talking to UNB, Dr Mahfuzur Rahman Bhuiyan, a former national consultant of the World Health Organization, said the number of patients suffering from respiratory diseases such as emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma has increased in the city due to the growing dust pollution.
Contacted, urban expert and ex-chairman of University Grants Commission, Prof Nazrul Islam, said there are no effective efforts visibly taken by the authorities concerned to cut back air pollution. "The rain has brought a bit of relief from dust pollution, but we should not depend on nature to resolve this problem."
He said it is possible to control the unusual growth of dust, if the authorities concerned, including the city corporations, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), and Dhaka Wasa, perform their duties properly.
Bapa General Secretary MA Matin said dust pollution can be controlled to some extent if the Department of Environment enforces the relevant laws for the construction of buildings and roads.
He also suggested using modern techniques for cleaning city roads, such as spraying water to stop dust from spreading during construction work, and keeping construction materials and sites under cover.
Heavy rain is still a big concern
Though the Managing Director (MD) of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA), Taqsem A Khan, recently said Dhaka City is likely to face less waterlogging this season, experts said things will not improve much as most of the projects taken up by the government to repair roads and drains remain half done.
Besides, they said one-third of the two Dhaka city corporations is still not covered by a proper drainage system due to lack of canals, while the drains and storm-sewerage lines remain clogged with waste due to not cleaning them regularly, creating waterlogging and serious gridlocks after a short spell of heavy rainfall.
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Experts say one-third of the two Dhaka city corporations is still not covered by a proper drainage system due to lack of canals | UNB
Contacted, Prof Sarwar Jahan of Buet's Urban and Regional Planning (URP) department said rainwater flow is being obstructed due to unplanned urbanisation, construction of houses and other structures occupying canals and water bodies.
Prof Nazrul Islam said the city drainage system cannot work properly for lack of maintenance and monitoring, causing waterlogging.
He said a single agency should be entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining the city's drainage system to ensure its better management.