Air Pollution

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Relevant facts

  • Quality of air is one of the most important dimensions of environment.
  • The nature of air pollution in urban areas generally differs from than in rural areas.
  • While urban air pollution is more an outdoor phenomenon, with vehicular emission and other modern sources of pollutants playing a more important role, rural air pollution is more an indoor phenomenon, with emission from biomass used for cooking playing a more important role and affecting women and children more than adult men.
  • Campaign by BAPA and other pro-environmental groups persuaded the government to ban in 2002 Two Stroke Engine Vehicles (TSEV) from the streets of Dhaka and also to introduce CHG run vehicles, as result the city’s air quality has improved than what it was in the late 1990s.
  • Campaign by BAPA and other pro-environmental groups persuaded the government to switch from leaded to unleaded gasoline, as a result of which the lead content of city’s air is much less than what it was in the late 1990s.
  • Despite the positive steps above, urban air quality still remains alarmingly poor, due to increased traffic, presence of old and unfit vehicles on the streets, pollution from neighboring brick fields, construction work, industrial, household, and medical waste, disappearance of trees and water bodies, population growth, etc.
  • Sulfuric emissions from diesel using vehicles are a major source of air pollution.
  • Urban air pollution is a major reason for rising incidence of pulmonary diseases in urban areas.
  • Indoor air pollution from use of biomass for cooking continues to pose a serious threat to the health of women and children in rural areas.
  • Outdoor air pollution is spreading in rural areas too due to setting up of brick fields and industrial enterprises (in particular cement factories) that emit dust and fumes into the air.
  • While two-stroke engines vehicles have been banned in Dhaka city, these are allowed to ply in rural areas, spreading their back poisonous smoke.

BEN’s recommendation regarding air pollution

  1. Steps should be taken to reduce urban air pollution through
    1. reduction and ensuring more effective flow of traffic,
    2. removal of old and unfit vehicles from streets,
    3. conversion of more vehicles into CNG-based,
    4. requiring neighboring brick kilns to use gas or high quality coal instead of firewood, and to adopt more efficient method of firing that need less fuel and emit less smoke,
    5. reduction and more effective and hygienic disposal of industrial, household, and medical waste,
    6. increase in the number of trees and green areas and water bodies within the cities, and
    7. curbing population growth.
  2. Steps should be taken to stop spread of outdoor air pollution in rural areas by
    1. banning two-stroke engine vehicles throughout the country,
    2. requiring brick kilns use gas or high quality coal and adopt more efficient method of firing that need less fuel and emit less smoke, and
    3. requiring industrial enterprises to install appropriate scrubbers to filter out all pollutants from their gaseous emissions.
  3. All out measures should be taken to bring about a switch from the traditional, inefficient, smoke belching, open-hearth, earthen cooking stoves to closed, efficient, smoke free (or at least less smoke bellowing) cooking stoves, and in order to bring out this switch the government makes sure that the new, efficient stoves are available to the rural households at very low cost.
  4. The government needs to take steps for effective monitoring the air quality and disseminates the information on a regular basis through media, in a similar fashion as weather reports are disseminated.
  5. The government needs to make available health check up facilities so that affected people can have early diagnosis of developing pulmonary conditions and take precautionary measures to prevent deterioration.