S H B Shuvro
Mr Habib is a Bengali architect who worked at a firm in Switzerland’s Zurich which is one of the least polluted cities in the world in terms of air quality. Habib was one of those brave Bengali men who dare to marry a Swiss girl and bring her to his hometown. Eventually Habib and his wife shifted to Dhaka however their migration unfortunately lasted for approximately 432 hours.
Habib’s Swiss wife struggled a lot to adopt with Dhaka’s pollution and what greatly overwhelmed her was Dhaka’s dusty winter air that compelled her to go back in Zurich. As long as air quality and health are concerned, the reason is plausible at the same time bizarre indeed.
Fortunately for Habib’s wife, she had this opportunity to shift back to Zurich but those of us who are living in Dhaka do not have that privilege. We have to breathe in the air blended with invisible particulates. In Dhaka, with every breath we take, we inhale a number of toxic matters. In fact, in Dhaka, dust pollution is not anymore a seasonal characteristic. The construction of the fastest growing megacity coupled with mismanagement is the reason why city dwellers have to suffer from dust pollution throughout the year. But certainly in winter the situation deteriorates and already with the advent of winter, dust pollution has started to take a turn over to jeopardize the public health. However, the following anecdote evidently exposes the process how dust pollution disrupts the city life and jeopardizes the public health:
Mrs Zinnia Islam is a retired banker who has been suffering from osteoporosis and obesity for long. Doctor advised Mrs Islam to walk for at least an hour every day. But unfortunately she was compelled to skip her exercise because of extreme dust pollution as she is also an asthma patient, and much of the capital’s Banasree area where she lives in is covered with dust, especially in winter.
Like Mrs Islam, thousands of city dwellers have to deal every day with dust pollution in the capital. Experts say that children and elderly are the most vulnerable to dust pollution.
Dust pollution is no longer a mere environmental problem. It has become a public health concern these days in Bangladesh. Unregulated construction sites are worsening Dhaka’s air quality. Immediate steps should be taken to control air pollution caused by dust. Also strict laws should be implemented to punish those who are responsible for dust pollution.
Travelling in different parts of the capital, one will find dust swirling almost everywhere due to construction of a number of development projects and buildings all around.
Media reports suggest that air quality in the following areas: Bansaree, Rampura, Mirpur, Gulshan, Bashundhara Residential, Rampura, Moddho Badda, Mouchak, Malibagh, Moghbazar, Jatrabari, is much worse than other areas.
Experts blame construction of high-rises, roads, residential quarters, bridges, markets, schools, , and digging of roads for installing pipe lines release a huge amount of dust, cement and sand particles in air. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, over 37,000 Bangladeshis die annually of diseases related to air pollution. Experts opine that the number of patients suffering from respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, lung cancer, asthma, emphysema and lower respiratory infection has been on a constant rise in the capital due mainly to increasing dust pollution.
Lung specialists warn that dust pollution is making Dhaka hazardous, particularly for children and the elderly. A long-term exposure to dust pollution provokes lung cancer and development or progression of chronic illness. Doctors suggest that people should wear mask when travelling outside to stay safe from dust pollution.
When asked about the reason for dust pollution Founder Chairman of Bangladesh Environmental Journalists Association (BEJA) Shamsuddin Ahmed said that unregulated construction sites, car emissions and dirt on roads are mostly accountable for the intensifying of dust in the air. These factors are increasing the number of hazardous particles in the air. Experts envisage that it is possible to control the unusual rise of dust if the authorities concerned put forth their efforts in a coordinated way. Considering the situation, it is high time to integrate quick measures to check pollution from building construction, brick kilns, and car emissions.
In Dhaka, dust pollution should be a key issue that authorities concerned must address in the sphere of sustainable construction, indeed not only for the sake of environment, but also public health. Necessary laws should immediately be implemented to compel the builders, constructors, and construction workers to build roads and buildings following rules and regulations. Also authorities concerned, including the Department of Environment (DoE), should devise immediate actions and reinforce its monitoring system for minimizing dust emissions on construction sites.
S H B Shuvro is an Editorial Assistant, Bangladesh Post