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Dhaka Tribune

How air pollution hurts us

Update : 08 May 2018, 02:40 AM

Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable nations when it comes to climate change. It has already observed seasonal variations due to the adverse effects of climate change.

For instance, we hardly notice the spring season in Bangladesh anymore.

There is hardly rain (like before) in the monsoon but, surprisingly, there is a good amount in winter. The temperature in the atmosphere is increasing alarmingly, and the pattern of rainfall has become unpredictable.

Due to environmental degradation, Bangladesh encounters natural disasters like floods, cyclones, storms, sea level surges, riverbank erosion, earthquakes, intermittent droughts, salinity intrusion, tsunamis. There has also been a drastic drop in air quality, as well as frequent thunderstorms and hailstorms.   

A report of BBS revealed that Bangladesh has lost Tk18,425 crore due to natural disasters from 2009 to 2014 -- while the total cost of damage and loss by hailstorms was Tk1,147.169cr.

The latest deadly storms and lightning in different parts of Bangladesh reflect the wrath of nature. Every year, many people and animals are killed or injured by lightning. In Bangladesh, more than 80 people have been killed by thunderstorms and lightning in the last two months.

This is a result of climate change.

The air we breathe

Bangladesh has been repeatedly ranked as the most polluted and unliveable cities in the world.

It is widely acknowledged by scientists that air pollution is one of the key effects of climate change. It not only fuels climate change, but is also a major threat to human health. It is one of the major environmental concerns in Bangladesh due to our inadequate and dysfunctional disposal sites that create acute health problems.

The continuous inhalation of particulate matters consisting of dust, fumes, mist, and smoke cause long-term health problems such as chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, heart disease, and even damage to the brain, nerves, liver, or kidneys. Repeated exposure to air pollution affects children’s lungs and can worsen or complicate medical conditions in the elderly.

According to a World Bank report, 15,000 people are killed due to air pollution every year in Bangladesh. Among the top 10 causes of death in Bangladesh, five of them are: Lung cancer (13%), lower respiratory tract infections (7%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (7%), ischemic heart disease (6%), and stroke (5%) -- all related to air pollution.

According to the National Institute of Diseases of Chest and Hospital (NIDCH), nearly seven million people in Bangladesh suffer from asthma -- over half of them children.

However, the big questions are: How can we curb air pollution? What are the causes of pollution? Who is responsible for such pollution? How are we responsible for this?

A few decades ago, scientists began warning us. However, we were very reluctant to accept that human activities are responsible for climate change. But we continued to pollute the air with exhaust fumes and smoke from our vehicles, factories, and industries. We contribute to greenhouse gas emissions by burning fossil fuels, gasoline, diesel, and other fuels.

In order to protect human lives and the environment, it is high time that we create public awareness of all these environmental issues

Reckless activity

Deforestation is another eminent reason for thunderstorms, which accelerate the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere -- the heat generated by electricity production, unplanned and unregulated operations of brick-fields, frequent rain-forest fire calamities, industrial productions, black fume generation from the fuel burning engines like street-plying vehicles, water-vehicles, buses, and trains.

All this has a monumental impact on the environment. In order to protect human lives and the environment, it is high time that we create public awareness of all these environmental issues via print and electronic media.

These frequent deadly storms are yet another wake-up call for all of us.

Last but not least, there are a few things that should be considered by policy-makers to save our environment.

For example, people of all classes must be concerned with improving the sanitation system, minimizing waste generation, promoting recycling, improving the disposal system, increasing the number of landfills, sorting waste, and more.

Moreover, relevant authorities should update the drainage system, impose taxes on polluters, reduce deforestation, and promote plantation by the roadsides without delay.

Muhammad Mehedi Masud is Assistant Professor, Department of Development Studies, University of Malaya, Malaysia.

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