AIR pollution, a silent, invisible and prolific killer, is responsible for the premature death of seven million people each year across the world, as the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment said on Monday. The UN official also urged the governments to take action to beat air pollution, improve health, address climate change and fulfil their human rights obligations. As for Dhaka city, the amount of dust particles in the air is increasing day by day because of various unplanned development projects, brick kilns and exposed drainage sludge on roads. Air pollution is said to be shortening Bangladeshi’s average life by 1.87 years. PM2.5, which is the primary air pollutant, is released from tailpipes of vehicles, coal-fired power plants, fires and industrial emissions. These particles, less than 2.5 microns in diameter, penetrate deep inside people’s lungs and even enter the bloodstream to end up causing heart diseases and other cardiovascular complications. Besides, such particles primarily produced from smoke and fumes can easily enter children’s lungs and damage their brain tissues as children generally breathe twice as quickly as adults. Of the seven million people that die prematurely every year from air pollution, 600,000 are children while 90 per cent of the world’s population breathe polluted air.
A report from the University of Washington in 2015 revealed that air pollution-related cerebral and cardiovascular infections provided the highest cause for premature death in Bangladesh. In fact, the way a vast majority of families have to live in houses without any proper ventilation in different cities, including the capital, and are regularly exposed to toxic smoke from traditional cooking stoves, there are little reasons for surprise at the high rate of deadly air pollution. The unplanned construction of buildings and roads, repairs of supply lines of different utilities and the operation of brick kilns in and around the cities, in many cases flouting the government guidelines, all of which pollute air with dusts and hazardous gases, also contribute to the situation. All this is the result of the general apathy of successive governments to public health, on the one hand, and the alleged unholy alliance between the government officials responsible for looking after the issues and unscrupulous businesspeople, on the other.
Realising that air pollution causes losses not only to the families concerned but also to the nation as it has serious implications for the national productivity, the government needs to monitor the air quality and its impact on human health, assess sources of air pollution, develop air quality action plans at the local and national levels, implement them and evaluate the progress resulting from it. The current situation is a curse for the country.
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