Air pollution more acute in villages than in cities

Ill-effects of indoor air pollution on health 

are also not to be ignored seminar told
The level of air pollution in the rural areas of the country is much higher than in the urban areas and that is why respiratory infection (RI) diseases are the most common diseases in Bangladesh. The effects of high indoor pollution, especially in the rural areas, are also not known widely but remain a looming risk to health.

This was revealed at a seminar on environment and health in the city yesterday. The speakers also warned that this was a problem not much heeded to because enough studies have not yet been conducted on it. They also warned about the ill effects of high indoor pollution on health in the country

The seminar, held at National Press Club, was organised by the Forum of Environmental Journalists' of Bangladesh (FEJB) in cooperation with the World Health Organisation (WHO). Presided over by FEJB Chairman Quamrul Islam Chowdhury, it was addressed by Dr Kersten Gutschmidt of WHO (Geneva), Dr Harry Caussy of WHO (New Delhi), Dr Han Heijen of WHO (Dhaka), Paul Martin of The World Bank, Dr Atiq A Rahman of CEN, Dr Mahfuzul Hoque of the Education Ministry and Dr A Z M Iftikhar Hossain of the Health Ministry. Pejush Kanti Datta of ADAB, FEJB Vice-Chairman Anwar Hosain Manju, Badiul Alam and Mostafa Kamal Majumdar also took part in the discussion.

The speakers urged for a coordinated national mobilisation programme to combat air and arsenic pollution in Bangladesh.

They said that those who are working to mitigate the problems should join their hands together for a more effective solution.

Dr Kersten informed that an estimated three million people, of which nearly half a million are children, die each year due to diseases caused by air pollution. In a developing country like Bangladesh air pollution is a major health problem. He said that WHO is conducting a risk assessment study to assist national agencies to address the problem.

Dr Harry Caussy termed arsenic contamination a global problem and said that Bangladesh is the worst sufferer. He said, about 30 million people are exposed to arsenic contamination in Bangladesh and mentioned that the WHO guidelines for drinking water quality is intended for use as basis for the development of national standards in contest of environmental conditions.

Paul Martin of the World bank emphasised on the need to phase out two-stroke engine three wheelers immediately and use of the right kind of fuel in vehicles to minimise outdoor air pollution in the urban areas.

Dr Atiq A Rahman of CEN, in his deliberation, said that rural kitchen based air pollution is ignored like many other problems of the rural poor. This situation should be resolved by using improved cooking stoves. He also termed the arsenic mitigation projects in the country a disaster and emphasised on the need for coordinated efforts between government agencies, donors and non-government organisations to really combat the situation.

FEJB chairman Quamrul Islam Chowdhury urged all concerned to focus on major environment related health issues and stressed on formulation of a coordinated programme to check environmental degradation.

Source: The Daily Star, Dhaka, August 1, 2001

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