THE High Court’s asking ranking Department of Environment officials to appear in court on April 10 regarding the air pollution of the capital city is welcome. The court asked the department’s director looking after the air quality management to explain to the court the agency’s position on Dhaka’s air pollution and the director general to submit a report on the level of air pollution in the capital city and the steps that have been taken to check against the pollution on the day. The court also expressed its disappointment about what the agency has so far done to check air pollution. Air pollution, mostly, in Dhaka has been a perennial problem without being attended to and an early March study by the Swiss-based group IQ AirVisual, which gathers air-quality data globally, and Greenpeace ranked Dhaka in the second position among the world’s worst capitals in 2018, categorising its air quality as unhealthy. In addition, Dhaka on February 20 ranked the fifth worst capital of the world in PM2.5 reading, which refers to atmospheric particulate matter having a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is about 3 per cent the diameter of a human hair.
The High Court on January 28 also directed the environment department and Dhaka’s mayors to ensure the use of sheeting at construction sites and in road repairs and other development activities to contain dust in the air. The quality of Dhaka’s air in the web site of the environment department on Thursday scored 156, or 64.9 microgram a cubic meter, which is classified as ‘unhealthy’, being in the ranges of 151–200, or 55.5–150.4 microgram a cubic meter. Such fine particles suspended in the air are dangerous because they are so small and light that they stay longer in the air and increase the chances of humans and animals inhaling them into the bodies. Because of their size, they can bypass the nose and the throat and penetrate deep into the lungs, causing, as studies have suggested, premature death from heart and lung diseases. They are also known to cause chronic diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems. The department on its web site offers widgets and apps for people to know of the air quality with a warning for protection. But what it fails to understand is that it is the responsibility of the department to bring down the pollution so that people remain protected.
The air quality situation of Dhaka is aggravated largely by the ongoing construction of the metro rail and the elevated expressway. But it is for all the relevant agencies to ensure that the construction work, which is of utmost importance, by way of increased fine particles should in no way come as a big environmental threat, which may take a heavy toll on public health in the long run. The environment department must, under the circumstances, sincerely report its action to the court on the issue and take up effective steps to check air pollution to head off any disaster.
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