A FURTHER decline in the already hazardous air quality of Dhaka and other cities with the onset of the dry season worryingly adds to the risk of COVID-19 infection, especially for people having respiratory problems. The air quality of cities is reported to have reached a dangerous level over the past few years in the absence of measures by the authorities concerned. The environment department on Monday measured Dhaka Air Quality Index score to be 284, which is very unhealthy. Air quality in other cities is also found to be extremely unhealthy. Air pollution was responsible for the premature death of 6.7 million people across the world and was the fourth leading risk factor for early death in 2019, surpassed only by high blood pressure, tobacco use and poor diet, as the State of Global Air 2020 says. In South Asia, more than 2.1 million people died because of air pollution where Bangladesh stands third with 173,500 death. The toll of air pollution is feared to be heavier as the COVID-19 outbreak has supposedly entered its second wave causing an increase in infection rate.
The High Court, meanwhile, on Tuesday asked the government to submit reports in 30 days on the progress in the implementation of the nine directives that the court issued in January to curb air pollution in the capital. The court directed the government to close brick kilns in and around the capital in two months, ban black smoke-emitting vehicles that served out their shelf life and define the valid life span of vehicles. The court also directed Dhaka mayors to ensure that owners of markets, shops and houses develop their own waste collection system for the final collection by city authorities. All the directives appear to have been largely ignored. More than 8,000 brick kilns legally run across the country and 3,000 of them run in and around the capital, keeping to the environment department which claims to have shut 700 brick kilns in 2019 and worked on the Bangladesh Clean Air Bill 2019 to stop pollution from construction sites. What is worrying is that the government has spent a large amount of money, including Tk 802.25 crore in air quality improvement projects, since 2009, but the efforts appear to have yielded little result.
The government must, therefore, take effective measures to improve air quality and to curb air pollution. The people and projects responsible for the decline in air quality must be taken care of. There is no scope for the government to compromise with an issue that so adversely affects all.
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