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Dust, Toxic Gases Dog Dhaka
Pollution double the standards

by Morshed Ali Khan, Daily Star

The city dwellers have been exposed to a high concentration of various toxic gases and dust in the air and consequent health hazards with the onset of the dry season more than two months ago, Department of Environment (DoE) experts said.

The air quality monitored in the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban area under a scheme called Continuous Air Monitoring Station (CAMS) showed that most of the time from December till now the Air Quality Index Value (AQIV) was between 198 and 200 and above. An AQIV of less than 100 shows good air quality and over 100 represents unhealthy air quality.

The monitoring station has warned that at present the city air is "very unhealthy" and that the situation will not improve till rain comes. Although dust content in the air is not measured, it has a high concentration of mainly carbon monoxide, hydro-carbon, sulpher dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Most of these gases are emitted by vehicles, brick kilns and industries.

The air quality was however "good" during the recent Eid-ul-Azha holidays when millions of the city population moved out to their village homes.

DoE experts attributed the air pollution mainly to vehicular emission. Thousands of vehicles ply the city streets without fitness certificates turning the metropolis into a virtual gas chamber. Ill maintained construction sites are constantly spewing dust in the atmosphere. Road digging is also causing dust pollution of air.

Moreover, Dhaka is surrounded by at least 2,000 brick kilns, which function during the dry season. Although almost all the kilns have long chimneys for better disposal of harmful smoke, a large quantity of particulate matters is still sprayed in the air, further polluting the atmosphere.

DoE experts said rapid and unplanned urbanisation is turning the capital into a huge concrete slab engulfing green areas and waterbodies.

"When particulate matters fall on earth or wetlands, they get absorbed quickly. But when these matters fall on concrete, vehicular movements make them airborne and the respiratory system of every individual, particularly children, bears the brunt," one expert noted.

During the four months of dry season, air pollution contributes to various respiratory diseases in Dhaka. Hospitals, clinics and doctors' chambers reported a rush of patients suffering from respiratory complications. Drug stores said sale of medicines for respiratory problems rose manifold in the just ended winter.

Meanwhile the DoE is now implementing a Tk 29cr Air Quality Management Project, which will also set a standard for vehicular emission for issuance of fitness certificates. The DoE is also working to revise the existing air quality standards.

Officials of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority admitted at a recent meeting that 50 percent of the vehicles in the capital do not have fitness certificates, a DoE source mentioned.

"Mere change of law may not help improve the situation. We have to force unfit vehicles to obtain fitness certificates by getting repaired and complying with the standards," he stressed.

Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) with only six sprinkler trucks sometimes tries to contain dust at different places. But its efforts can hardly solve the problem.

Mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka told The Daily Star the DCC would launch 'a massive cleaning programme 'in June as soon as road repair works are completed.

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