Death by air pollution — verdict for Dhakites fighting to survive!

ANM Mohibub Uz Zaman

22 January, 2020 12:00 AM printer

The residents of overcrowded Dhaka, fighting to save themselves from health hazards, have been sentenced to death by air pollution whether they have committed any crime or not, due unrestricted biomass emission and that from the vehicles clogging the city roads due to failure to check the situation.

Vehicles which should not be allowed on the roads continue to operate along with those which have defects leading to a record high state of air pollution in the city of 20,284,000, which was a 3.61% increase from 2018.

Diesel vehicles were found the worst polluters in vehicle sector. Only 23% of diesel buses and trucks could meet the limit value of 65 Hatridge Smoke Unit (HSU) capacity and about 67% of them had emissions with opacity of 85 HSU.

Main sources of air pollution include emission from faulty vehicles, especially diesel-run ones, brick kilns, dust from construction sites and toxic fumes from industries.

But, the government did not take any initiative to check pollution form vehicles and biomass in the capital.

Dhaka experienced the highest level of air pollution among cities across the world on Sunday as its air quality index (AQI) has soared to 260 around 8:19am and the air was classified as ‘very unhealthy’.6

 Pakistan’s Lahore and Mongolia’s Ulaanbaatar were on top two positions on the list of cities with the worst air with scores of 458 and 269 respectively.

According to Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (CASE) project daily air index (AQI) forecasted the index 303 on January 18, 341 on January 15 and 364 on January 14.

In Bangladesh, the AQI is based on five criteria pollutants - Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5), NO2, CO, SO2 and Ozone (O3).

Biomass has also been burnt at 40 different places in the capital city that also polluting air in the capital city.

However, the government has taken initiative while the Department of Environment (DoE), demolished 349 out of 559 illegal brick kilnin five district and realized Tk 4.92 crore as penalty for polluting environment .

Dr. Abdus Salam, Professor of the Department of Chemistry under the Dhaka University told the daily sun that not only the brick kiln, vehicles, construction dust, road dust and biomass emission is other major sources of air pollution in Dhaka.

He said the government should impose restriction on biomass emission, construction dust and impose a limit of vehicle emission, according to the international standard.

Ziaul Haque, director of Air Quality at the Department of Environment (DoE) said they have taken all-out efforts to combat the source of air pollution including brick kiln, road dust, vehicle and other sources.

Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (CASE) Project of the Department of Environment (DoE) report over the source of air pollution report find out that old fleet, improper traffic and parking management, overloading, lack of maintenance and adulterated fuel have driven the vehicle sector contributing to air pollution in Dhaka city.

The latest source apportionment study by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) under the CASE project attributed about 10.4% of fine particles in Dhaka city to vehicular emission and 7.7% to road dusts.

The CASE project was conducted roadside vehicle emission testing program with a view to assess the vehicle compliance.

Motorcycles and all types of diesel vehicles were identified from this emission testing program as the worst polluters in the vehicle sector in Dhaka city.

It was found that 78% of motorcycles and 77% of diesel vehicles failed to satisfy their respective limit values set by the government.

The result shows, bus and light duty vehicles with success rates of 74.5 and 76.7 % respectively should have done further better in consideration of using cleaner fuel CNG.

The performances of motor cycles were very pale; its performance rate was only 22.2%. On the other hand, diesel vehicles irrespective of its category, performed very poorly.