The environment minister says steps will soon be taken to tackle the problem
Environment and health experts have said the dwellers of Dhaka should brace for terrible dust pollution in the upcoming winter if proper steps are not taken to handle it.
The experts said dust pollution is no-longer an environmental issue as it is going to emerge as a major public health concern, reports UNB.
They suggested that the authorities concerned, including the Department of Environment (DoE), craft an effective action plan – and strengthen its monitoring system – to reduce dust pollution across Dhaka.
While travelling in different areas of Dhaka, UNB correspondents found that dust was swirling everywhere—due to unplanned construction of buildings, roads, and footpaths. Plus, there is no monitoring and enforcement of laws to check the matter.
DoE officials said they will soon hold meetings with relevant departments and agencies to coordinate efforts to reduce dust pollution.
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), released in May, Dhaka's air quality ranked as the third-most polluted in the world.
Another WHO report, published in 2016, says over 37,000 Bangladeshis die annually from diseases related to air pollution.
Increase in dust pollution during dry seasons
Talking to UNB, environment expert Ainun Nishat, professor Emeritus at Brac University, said: "The situation is going to take a turn for the worse during the dry season, seriously affecting public health if effective steps are not taken immediately to reduce it."
He said it is possible to control air pollution and the exponential growth of dust, by having the authorities concerned coordinate their roles.
The environment expert also said the government rapidly needs to check on the pollution produced by brick kilns, vehicles, and the construction of roads and buildings.
Ainun Nishat said the roads in Dhaka need to be doused with water every day, especially during the dry season, to minimize dust pollution.
He said relevant laws should be strictly enforced to ensure builders comply with pollution rules and regulations—including covering construction sites and spraying water to the control dust created by building roads and buildings.
Lack of good governance
General Secretary of Bangladesh of Paribesh Andolan (Bapa) MA Matin said dust pollution is on the rise because of: lacking good governance, preventive measures, action plans, initiatives, and law enforcement.
He said the situation will further worsen during the dry season – from mid-October to March – because of inadequate rainfall.
"As the government's development activities marked a sharp rise, pollution also increased. We are not against development, but it has to be done protecting the environment," Matin observed.
He said the two Dhaka city corporations can neither properly clean up roads nor ensure proper waste management—causing dust pollution to rise.
There are also no efforts to check emissions of pollutants and black smoke from different: industries, vehicles, water vessels, and nearby brick kilns, he added.
*Dhaka's air quality ranked as the third most polluted in the world in May.
*In 2016, the WHO reported that over 37,000 Bangladeshis die annually from diseases related to air pollution.
*Dust pollution increases from mid-October to March
Matin also suggested using modern techniques to clean up the city roads,—spraying water to stop dust from spreading during construction and keeping construction materials and sites covered. The laws should be enforced through proper monitoring.
DoE Director (Air Quality Management) Ziaul Haque said they have sent a letter to different agencies and bodies, including: Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), two city corporations, the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), the Public Works department, housing authorities, Titas Gas, and the Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (Rehab)—to sign deals with builders to prevent dust pollution during construction.
The DoE director said a coordinated effort by all relevant departments and agencies is a must to ensure proper monitoring—and to take effective steps to reduce dust pollution.
Environment and Forest Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud said they are working on various legal steps and plans to check on air pollution caused by construction during the dry season.
The minister said though there are environment-protecting building codes, and rules and regulations to carry out construction work, these are not followed.
Director General of the Directorate General Health service (DGHS) Prof Abul Kalam Azad said: "People are becoming affected by serious diseases like lung problems, cancer, and respiratory problems due to dust pollution."
Dr Imrul Haque of the ENT department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University said the number of patients suffering from: asthma, pneumonia, obstructive lung diseases, bronchitis, lung cancer, and lower respiratory infections is increasing in Dhaka due to growing dust pollution—and the situation will deteriorate during the dry season.