Government must improve on fossil fuel use to better air quality

Published: 00:00, Feb 11,2021


A LACK of regulation for the use of fossil fuels such as gas, coal, petrol and diesel, as New Age reported on Tuesday, has brought to the fore a disconcerting negligence of the government. When the danger of fossil fuel combustion is discussed, it inevitably comes down to the emission of carbon dioxide and climate change, but the health impact of the pollutants released into the air in the process is hardly talked about. An international study, conducted by four universities including Harvard University, shows that the overall concentration of fine particles, or particulate matters 2.5 that are two and a half microns or less in width —  there are 25,000 microns to an inch — was 58.9 micrograms, a millionth of a gram, per cubic metre of air in 2012; and 52.3 micrograms per cubic metre, or 88.79 per cent, of particulate matter 2.5, the second highest that year, is said to have been accounted for by the burning of fossil fuels. While Bangladesh uses less fossil fuels than many other countries do, the country has the second highest mortality rate because of the air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels. A 36.5 per cent of the overall mortality rate caused by air pollution places Bangladesh right after China, with a 40 per cent mortality rate caused by air pollution.

While this is the situation, the per capital fossil fuel consumption in Bangladesh, keeping to global statistics, was only 6,303 megawatt-hour in 2019 while the figure was 23,373MWh in China that time. This shows that the burning of fossil fuels in Bangladesh is nowhere near efficient. And the blame is largely put down on old buses that cannot burn the fuels efficiently and release particulate matter 2.5 into the air, causing a high level of pollution. An environment department estimate shows that there are half a million buses in the capital city and many of them run on old engines in violation of the Bangladesh standards as they cannot run on quality fossil fuels. This makes Bangladesh import substandard fuels to run the buses which also adds to air pollution. A situation like this provides for an important reason for the government to stop air pollution with a view to improving its burden on public health and to attend to the issues of fossil fuels of old engines in vehicles that have largely added to the air pollution for years. The situation in Bangladesh is said to have deteriorated further in recent years with the concentration of particulate matter 2.5 per cubic metre of air hovering around 100 micrograms on an average round the year. The short-term standard, or the daily average, of air quality is 35 micrograms per cubic metre and the long-term standard, or the annual average, is 12 micrograms, as various international air quality standards suggest.

While the government must, therefore, ensure an efficient use of fossil fuels to improve on the air quality and stop air pollution, with a greater focus on old engines of public buses, it must also draw up a plan of action to reduce the concentration of particulate matter 2.5 for the protection of public health.

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