The Center for Sustainable Development at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB-CSD) released a new report highlighting the lethal problem of ambient (outdoor) air pollution in Dhaka. The report titled ‘Breathing Healthier Amid Rapid Urbanization’ highlights the fact that long term exposure to air pollution in Bangladesh reduces life expectancy by three to seven years. Air pollution elevates one’s risk of heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Among babies and children, it increases the risk of lung infections and breathing problems, and contributes to reduced lung functionality over the long term.
Nationally, air pollution is more harmful to human health than smoking because, while individuals can choose not to smoke, everyone breathes the air. Experts estimate that air pollution is responsible for over 30,000 premature deaths each year in urban areas around Bangladesh with close to 7,000 of these deaths in Dhaka. Dhaka is a hot spot for air pollution, with the primary sources being brick kilns, construction dust and vehicle emissions. Concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in the capital city are eight times the maximum ceiling recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The report calls for response to contributing factors with collaboration across the Environment, Health, Energy, Finance and Transport sectors necessary for success. It describes the need to redouble focus on addressing the primary sources of pollution, and to work with development partners and the private sector to do so.
The report’s lead author, Anna Williams, said, “A lot of great work has gone into addressing air pollution over the years, with notable successes. Unfortunately, though, we see that the pace of urbanization is cancelling out many of the benefits achieved, and larger scale efforts are needed to effectively tackle the challenge. The good thing is that public awareness is increasing and solutions are available. There is also a lot Bangladesh can adopt and adapt from other Asian countries that are dealing with this same issue.”