Unfortunately, issues like environmental pollution always take a backseat
It is common knowledge that the city of Dhaka has unhealthy air, with our AQI routinely off the charts. Still, it is sobering to hear that according to data from the Air Quality Life Index, released by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), the residents of Dhaka could raise their life expectancies by 7.7 if they complied with the World Health Organization recommendations in curbing air pollution. Bangladesh, as a whole, could lift its life expectancy by 5.6 years. The dirty air we breathe day in and day out, then, is not just an inconvenience, it is nothing short of a public health emergency.
Regrettably, year after year, the depth of the need to clear up our air is ignored by the authorities. Of course, promises are made, but overall, over time, we only see the air going from bad to worse. During certain periods of lockdown, we witnessed cleaner air in the capital city, showing that it is, in fact, possible to bring pollution levels down. But the political will needs to be there, and citizens need to be made to comply.
Unfortunately, issues like environmental pollution always take a backseat to all the policy talk of economic growth, infrastructural development, and petty politics. But a nation cannot, in any real sense, become fully developed unless its thriving population centres are kept healthy and safe. This can be done: Shutting down brick kilns, taking unfit vehicles off the road, and monitoring and regulating construction work will go a long way towards our goal, but it needs to be a priority.