'Polluters pay is a globally applicable phenomenon, and this should be enforced in Bangladesh as well'
As a measure to bring down pollution, Director General of the Department of Environment (DoE), Dr AKM Rafique Ahammed, on Wednesday proposed making polluters pay for the damage they cause to the environment.
He said this at a seminar at DoE’s headquarters in Dhaka.
The seminar, “Impact of Air Pollution and Forests and Biodiversity in Urban Planning,” was jointly organized by the DoE, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“Polluters pay is a globally applicable phenomenon, and this should be enforced in Bangladesh as well," the DoE chief said, calling for a hardline stance on the issue.
Dr Rafique also said it is not possible to conserve Dhaka's environment without stakeholder intervention, and that they are looking for an engineering solution to this end. "Dhaka requires a life support system to survive."
He recommended raising awareness about the negative effects of environmental pollution to get people invested in conservation.
Muqeed Majumder Babu, chairman of Prokriti O Jibon Foundation, said: “Brick kilns, construction dust, and transport, are the three sectors responsible for 86% of air pollution in Dhaka. Pollution can be reduced only if action is taken in these three sectors."
He added that planting trees is not a sustainable solution as trees will also die if the air remains polluted.
Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) General Secretary, Dr Adil Mohammed Khan, said Dhaka has been built in an unplanned manner, adding: "There is no free space, no forests, no usable sidewalks, or no fresh river water. Encroachers and polluters do not care about paying fines since the fines are too little.”
Dr Ainun Nishat, water resource and climate change specialist, said it is the DoE director general's responsibility to protect the environment.
Abdullah Al Mohsin Chowdhury, secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said: “People want us to act as the regulator, but our country and citizens aren't at a stage yet where only regulation is enough. So we are opting for awareness alongside enforcement."
A joint statement issued by the organizers read: “Dhaka’s air is the second-most polluted in the world. Cadmium in the city's air is 200 times more than the acceptable level. Nickel and Lead are twice, and chromium thrice, the acceptable levels.
58% of pollution comes from brick kilns, followed by 18% from construction dust, 10% from the transport sector, 8% percent from biomass, and 6% pollution from other sources, the statement read, adding that in Bangladesh, 8.5 million people suffer from asthma, and another 7.5 million suffer from breathing complications due to air pollution.