Persistent Air Pollution

Over Cities

Around 1,000 metric tonnes of pollutants are pumped into the air of Dhaka city everyday alone, of which 70 per cent emanates from vehicles. Air pollution of towns and cities in Bangladesh is a problem that is steadily increasing and though it is much talked about in seminars and the like, it is unlikely to go away unless firm action is taken to stop the polluters.

The World Bank’s South Asia Environment Unit says 15,000 deaths - and a million cases of illnesses - could be avoided every year if air pollution over the four largest cities of Bangladesh could be controlled. We do not have an effective policy for containing air pollution. What is now needed is an urgent action plan for containing pollution. Reducing the level of air pollution caused by two-stroke engines and diesel-operated vehicles.

The level of lead in the air is also a major concern and calls for catalytic converters in cars to become mandatory. New findings are now adding fresh impetus to this burning issue as hazardous dust particles, carbon monoxide emission and unburned hydrocarbon fly around in the air causing sickness and death.

The weather condition also contributes to pollution. In the dry season the effects of air pollution worsen because rain water is not there to dispel it. The presence of clouds in the sky that remain stagnant, prevent polluted air from rising up. Unchecked pollution coupled with unfavorable weather patterns can make polluted air especially dangerous.

Although we cannot control the weather, we can control pollution if we put our minds to it. Inaction in checking it is proving to be too costly. Persuading car owners to convert to CNG does not seem to be a priority even though the cost of conversion is said to have been subsidised. Nothing has been done to build up public opinion for a speedy transition to gas-powered autos which can keep pollution within limits. As weather seems to be an important factor, and with the dry season fast approaching, it is time we took the needed action or face a winter accompanied by more ill-health.

Source: The Bangladesh Observer, 12 August, 200