Farhad Chowdhury : When winter comes, Dhaka often takes the top spot in the world for air pollution. 2023 was the most polluted air year in eight years. Dust is one of the reasons behind this. To prevent this pollution, City Corporation, Department of Environment and related ministries have taken various steps. But they are not able to prevent pollution. As a result, the capital Dhaka often tops the list of polluted cities.
Environmentalists say that the city dwellers are suffering in everything from diseases to clothing, furniture, homes, food, due to dust pollution.
Those concerned say that there is a lack of coordination between the City Corporation, Department of Environment and Government Ministries to prevent air pollution in the city.
Especially in the field of construction and road digging, which are the main sources of dust pollution, although there are specific policies, the government and private institutions do not follow them. Besides, there is no coordination between the City Corporation and the Department of Environment to prevent pollution. As a result, dust pollution is becoming serious in the city.
According to the latest data of air quality index (AQI) of Switzerland-based organization IQ Air, the capital’s air quality has reached disastrous levels for a total of 9 days in January, which is the highest in the last seven years. Among them, Dhaka was at the top in air pollution for three consecutive mornings from January 6.
Pollution research institute CAPS says that uncoordinated road digging and construction work is responsible for 30 percent of Dhaka’s air pollution. The impact of industrialization on air pollution in Dhaka and the nearby brick kilns along with construction sites are the main sources of dust pollution. In addition, dust is spreading due to the lack of canopy in big freight vehicles while bringing and taking construction materials.
Caps chairman and professor of environmental science at Stamford University Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumdar told that there are several reasons for air pollution in Dhaka city. The first highest source is construction, the second cause is industrial plants, the third highest is unfit vehicles. At present, the fear is that big mega projects without complying with the construction rules, dust is increasing due to road construction. If City Corporation, Ministry of Local Government, Department of Environment had kept vigilance then pollution would not have happened from these sources.
Building construction and road repair work of various government ministries, including WASA, City Corporation, are going on in the capital throughout the year. Besides, in the last few years, various development works including several mega projects of the government are going on. Those concerned said that the most dust pollution is due to these construction works.
However, although there are some specific instructions of the Department of Environment to prevent air pollution during any type of construction work, these rules are not observed in practice.
According to the rules of the Department of Environment, during the construction or repair of roads and buildings, there are instructions for proper canopies or coverings at the construction sites so that the dust does not mix with the air. At the same time proper covering of building materials (soil, sand, rods, cement etc.) inside and outside and sprinkling of water at least twice a day is supposed. But in reality, due to non-following of these instructions, the amount of dust in the capital is increasing.
In January 2020, the High Court issued nine-point directives to control air pollution, including covering construction materials, sprinkling water and complying with tender conditions for digging. But they are not accepted. Mana does not show any action.
To prevent pollution, Dhaka North City Corporation launched a special crash program to sprinkle water, but it is not effective. Residents of North City say that water is not sprinkled in all areas. The amount of water that is sprinkled is very less than required.
Abdul Quader, a resident of MalibaghRailgate area told, “I have never seen water splashing here.” So much dust is flying in the air, if I don’t wear a mask, I can’t go out without touching my face. Since the last three months, the expressway work is going on here, due to which the dust has increased.
The same situation is in Dhaka South City Corporation area. Residents of this area say that there is maximum dust from November to March. But no significant activities of City Corporation and Department of Environment are visible to control these pollutions. During the winter season they find the dust as the most suffering.
Rakib, a resident of Mohammadpur’s Chand Udyan told, I do business in Rayerbazar. I walk through the embankment constantly. There is so much dust in this area, I often suffer from cold and cough. This road is being renovated for the last one and a half years. I am a little better during the rainy season, but in both the winter and hot seasons, I am moving in a lot of pain.
According to CAPS research, the pollution in the area where water is sprinkled by the city corporation is returning to the previous level after two hours. In this regard, Caps Chairman Prof. Kamruzzaman is giving importance to the coordination of City Corporation, Department of Environment and Ministry of Local Government to prevent dust pollution.
He said, the city corporation should fix a specific time for the construction work. Those who are involved in the construction work of Dhaka city have to complete the work according to the specific rules. In Dhaka city, 10 ministries and 30-35 organizations are associated with air pollution. In this case, the Department of Environment or the City Corporation will not be able to solve it sustainably. For this, we have to work in coordination with other ministries through the application of the highest law.
In this regard, Public Relations Officer of Dhaka North City Corporation Maqbul Hasan said that Dhaka North City is sprinkling water through modern spray cannons to prevent dust. A large amount of water is sprinkled with special emphasis on roads under construction. Contractors are instructed to work under cover during construction. The DNCC Magistrate is taking legal action if the construction material is left lying around and pollutes the environment. Maybe it is less than needed.
Air pollution is a by-product of our unplanned development, says Adil Mohammad Khan, a teacher and urban planner at Jahangirnagar University. All types of developmental activities in urban planning have an impact on air pollution. Public-private infrastructure construction is going on, standards are not being followed anywhere. As a result of the industrialization in and around Dhaka, the air pollution is increasing. But on the contrary, if there are plants in the city as a balancing factor to reduce air pollution, then greening acts as a factor. But we have destroyed it due to excessive urbanization.
Blaming the administration, the planner said, whatever is happening, we have policies and laws for everything. But there is no monitoring to reflect these. In this case, the Department of Environment, City Corporation or the related parties are avoiding responsibility because they are not following the instructions. Our state failed to follow these instructions. These institutions do not have the capacity. Those who are doing construction work, digging roads, if they don’t follow the rules, they should be punished. It will not be possible to reduce the suffering of the city dwellers without strict action of the administration.
Ziaul Haque, director of the air quality management department of the Environment Department, told that the significant reason for the non-reduction of air pollution in Dhaka is that 30-35 percent of the pollution comes from neighboring India. We have nothing to do here. But the remaining 65 percent is ours. Now the institutions that work in the government, they have to follow the instructions. Those who build private houses should also comply. The rule is that where the road is to be cut it must be covered. So that dust does not come out. If we all take care of these things, it will be possible to prevent pollution.
Ziaul Haque also said, we cannot move forward without seeing the instructions being reflected. The biggest challenge for us now is to implement the directives. According to the air pollution control rules, a committee has been formed at the national level under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary Sir and two meetings have also been held in this regard.
Special Correspondent: President of the Bangladesh Insurance Forum (BIF), BM Yusuf Ali, ha…