The air in Bangladesh carried the highest concentration of pollutants in the world in 2019, revealed an air quality monitoring report globally released on Tuesday.
The report, released by Switzerland-based IQAir, represented data made public real time or near real time throughout the last year.
Green activists and environment experts blamed development activities without caring for the environment for the deterioration of the country’s air quality.
They feared that the situation would worsen further in the coming years.
‘While the new coronavirus is dominating international headlines, a silent killer is contributing to nearly seven million more deaths a year: air pollution,’ said Frank Hammes, IQAir chief executive officer, in a press release issued on the occasion of launching the report.
Bangladesh has surpassed countries such as Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Mongolia in polluting the air, said the report.
In each cubic metre of air in Bangladesh the average concentration of pollutant particles the size of 2.5 microns was found to be 83.3 micrograms, which was far greater than in other countries, according to the report.
Pakistan has ranked second in the monitoring report with an average concentration of 65.8 micrograms of the pollutant particles, also known as PM2.5, in each cubic metre of air.
The average PM2.5 concentration in the air of Mongolia is 62 micrograms while in Afghanistan 58.8 and in India 58.1 micrograms.
Singapore, which is often referred to by Bangladesh government high-ups to be emulated for the country’s development soon, has in its air the concentration of PM2.5 at only 19 micrograms.
In fact, nearly half of the 98 countries included in the air quality evaluation have PM2.5 concentration at less than 19 micrograms.
Dhaka has ranked the world’s second most polluted city in the report that also lists 85 cities in order of their air quality.
Delhi is the most polluted city in the world with 98.6 micrograms of PM2.5 in each cubic metre of its air.
In the Bahamas the concentration of PM2.5 is 3.3 micrograms.
PM2.5 is regarded as extremely harmful to human health with its microscopic size allowing it to enter the blood stream via the respiratory system, said the report.
The microscopic pollutants then travel throughout the body causing far-reaching health effects, including asthma, lung cancer and heart diseases.
The report said that the airborne particulate matters could originate from a range of sources—combustion from vehicle engines, industry, fire, coal burning, sandstorms, agriculture, and chemical reactions in the atmosphere.
Dhaka University’s geography and environment professor Shahidul Islam said that the way development was taking place in Bangladesh was really environmentally harmful.
While industries and numerous brick kilns are polluting the environment to a great extent the open-air construction of concrete structures is no less a source of air pollution, he said.
The sensible way of building infrastructure is doing it under covering so that the dust resulting from the process is not mixed with the air, he said.
‘The state must not delay in checking open-air construction that is taking place on such a dangerous scale,’ he said.
‘Particulate matters can cause any number of diseases and are the largest single threat to human health,’ said Shahid.
Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan general secretary Sharif Jamil said that development plans such as establishing of economic zones across Bangladesh and construction of dozens of power plants to electrify them were taken without conducting environmental impact assessment.
He observed that development plans were not taken to meet the need of the general people but to serve the interest of a handful of people.
He feared that the air pollution would worsen in future as the government was in the process of installing about two dozen coal-fired power plants along the country’s coast.
‘The people of the country are victims of wrong development,’ he said.
He demanded that all development activities be immediately reviewed to protect lives of people.
In 2016, the World Health Organisation held toxic air responsible for causing seven million premature deaths every year across the world as 92 per cent of the world population inhaled polluted air.
In 2018, the WHO found air pollution as the main cause of death for children under the age of 15, killing 600,000 of them every year.
In 2016, the World Bank estimated that premature deaths due to air pollution cost about $5 trillion in welfare losses worldwide.
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