DoE finds severe air pollution at sites

Dhaka ranks worst on AQI for 2 successive days

Shahin Akhter | Published: 11:09, Jan 31,2020 | Updated: 00:27, Feb 01,2020


A man holds his breath as dust covers the Banasree Road in Dhaka. — New Age file photo

The Department of Environment has recently found severe air pollution at some points of the under-construction Metro Rail and Dhaka Elevated Expressway projects.

The department is now planning to take legal actions against the Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development (Line-6) and the Elevated Expressway projects for polluting air.

Earlier, in November last year, the department fined the two projects for the same reason.

Officials of both the megaprojects said that all preventive measures were taken in the project areas to prevent air pollution.

Air pollution has become a serious problem for the capital and some other cities, including Gazipur, Narayanganj and Savar, in recent years. 

The High Court on January 13 this year issued nine directives to the government to curb the capital’s air pollution.

The capital topped the list of the cities with the worst air again for the second consecutive day on the Air Quality Index on Friday morning with the score of 313ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter of air) at 8:16am. The air was classified as ‘hazardous’, according to a UNB report.

The city ranked the worst on Thursday with the score of 408ug/m3 at 9:38am.

On the Air Quality Index, an index for reporting daily air quality, a score below 100ug/m3 is generally thought as satisfactory, between 101ug/m3 and 200ug/m3 as unhealthy, between 201ug/m3 and 300ug/m3 as very unhealthy and between 301ug/m3 and 500ug/m3 as hazardous implying issuance of health warnings for emergency conditions and the high likelihood of the entire population to be affected.

Scores above 500ug/m3 are considered signifying such serious hazards that are beyond those identified by the AQI.

The ambient air quality standard as per the Environmental Conservation Rules, 1997 (amendment 2005) is also 200ug/m3.

On December 26, 2019, DoE officials measured AQI scores of 1,137ug/m3 and 1,111ug/m3 respectively at the Mirpur-10 and Agargaon intersections along the Metro Rail project route.

On that day, the officials measured AQI score of 473ug/m3 at the Navy Headquarter point in Banani along the route of the Dhaka Elevated Expressway.

On November 24, 2019, the department measured AQI scores of 820ug/m3 at the Agargaon intersection, 764ug/m3 at the Mirpur-10 intersection, 605ug/m3 at the Banani intersection and 425ug/m3 at the Navy Headquarter point in Banani.

The department conducted mobile courts on November 27 at the Banani spot under the Elevated Expressway project and the Farmgate point under the elevated rail project.

The Elevated Expressway project was fined Tk 2 lakh and the Metro Rail project Tk 1 lakh for polluting air and both the project authorities were directed to cover their construction materials.

DoE assistant director (Dhaka Metro Office) Syful Asrab told New Age on Thursday that they had already sent the December 26 AQI scores to the DoE enforcement section for taking legal actions.

He said that till November 2019 they had received AQI reports from both the project offices, in which the AQI scores were always found tolerable.

Air pollution is not only affecting human heath but also the ecosystem, including the photosynthesis process of the trees, he said.

A senior official of the department said that the US embassy in Dhaka also measured air quality and in November last year it informed the department about its concern over the air pollution in the capital.

DMRTDP (Line-6) deputy project director (public relations) Khan Md Mizanul Islam said that the air quality in the Metro Rail project area, as per his knowledge, was always found at satisfactory levels.

A separate agency was working for the project to monitor the environmental impact in the project area, he added.

Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited managing director MAN Siddique could not be reached over phone for his comment.

Dhaka Elevated Expressway project director AHM Shakhawat Akhtar told New Age on Thursday that they had cordoned the construction yards by boundary, dusts were cleaned and water was sprayed regularly to prevent air pollution as per the DoE directives.

Each month they send reports to the department and they would do everything necessary, he added.

Air pollution affects human heath by causing even cancers in addition to respiratory problems, headache, anxiety, irritation to eyes, noses and the throat, and cardiovascular, liver and reproductive organ diseases, said officials of the department.

In Bangladesh, an AQI score is based on five pollutants—particulate matter or PM 10 and PM 2.5, sulphur di-oxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and ozone.

The Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited is implementing the 20.1-kilometre-long elevated rail service called the Mass Rapid Transit Line-6, the first ever such service, popularly known as the Uttara–Bangladesh Bank Metro Rail.

On the other hand, the Bangladesh Bridge Authority is constructing the approximately 23-kilometre-long Dhaka Elevated Expressway from the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to the Dhaka Chittagong Highway (near Kutubkhali) under a Public-Private Partnership initiative.

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