Dust remains a serious health hazard in the Dhaka city. What should the authorities concerned do to get rid of the problem?

— New Age/Sanaul Haque

— New Age/Sanaul Haque

ALTHOUGH dust pollution is not limited to any specific area, some areas are more affected than others. Hatkhola, Manik Mia Avenue, Tejgaon, Farmgate, Motijheel, Lalmatia, Rampura and Mohakhali are some of the worst affected areas. However, in recent years, the areas surrounding the under-constructed Moghbazar-Mouchak flyover project are facing the worst of dust pollution. During a visit to the nearby areas, including Siddheshwari, Moghbazar, Malibagh, Mouchack and Banglamtor – a dismal scene of public suffering was noticed. Most passersby and commuters either wore face masks or covered their noses with their palms. Residents complained that not only they are having physical problems because of dust, their living condition is severely affected as well. Keeping their houses clean has become an almost impossible task. Their utensils and furniture are getting rusty due to their constant exposure to dust. Mohammad Hanif, who has a food cart beside Siddheshwari College, complained about difficulties of protecting his foods from dust. He also mentioned having breathing problems and irritation in his eyes. Various small vendors in the areas near the flyover had to move their businesses elsewhere due to dust and non-availability of customers.

Where does dust come from?
DUST is not only the flaky earthly substance, or dirt particles. There are many more elements that can be found in dust form in Dhaka’s air. Dhaka’s air contains smoke, soot, liquid chemical droplets and other miniscule particles that are so light that they can float, creating a hazy form. In Dhaka, dust originates from a variety of anthropogenic sources, such as brick kilns, open air industrial/household garbage burning, power plants, industrial processes, vehicles, fertilizer factories, sugar, paper, jute and textile mills, tanneries, garment, bread and biscuit factories, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, cement production and processing factories and other industrial settings inside or in the nearby areas of Dhaka. All of these sources produce enormous amount of smokes, fumes, gases and flakes which create miniscule aerial particles we perceive as dust.
With rapid urbanisation, the demands for housing and other construction works are also increasing. A lot of old buildings are being demolished, and new buildings are being constructed all over the city. Demolition and construction of buildings produce a high amount of dust. During the construction of buildings, many house owners and concerned workers prefer to leave the raw materials like cement and sand uncovered on the open spaces near the construction site, which ultimately ends up being mixed in the air.
Various utility service departments such as Dhaka City Corporations (DCC), Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) and Titas Gas, conduct development works throughout the year, which involve cutting and digging roads in rapid successions. As the surfaces of the roads and highways are disturbed so often for this, a lot of dust is produced as a result. During the construction of overbridges or flyovers, construction materials are often left exposed to open air, which adds up to the dust situation. Another source of dust leads to the drains. The drains of the city often get clogged with thrown out garbage and other discarded materials. If not disposed properly in time, the liquid portion of the filth evaporates, and the left over blob eventually takes on the form of dust.
In 2011, Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) and the DoE started a three-year collaboration to find out the level of pollution in the air of Dhaka city. The researchers measured the concentration of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, as well as small and large dust particles in the air, and were surprised by the high concentration of dust particles. During a 24-hour measurement of dust concentrations, researchers found the concentration level exceeding three times the legal limit for air pollution in the United States and Bangladesh, and nearly five times the limit in the EU and Norway.
‘We may have seen these kinds of results before – for example on an industrial site or near a desert where the wind blows the sand around – but not in a city with people’, NILU scientist Scott Randall said in 2011. However, he preferred a continuous monitoring system for more accuracy.
An estimated 15,000 deaths, as well as several million cases of pulmonary, respiratory and neurological illness occur every year due to the poor air quality of Dhaka, according to the Air Quality Management Project (AQMP), funded by the government and the World Bank.
People most at risk are children, the elderly, and people with respiratory or heart diseases, but people with healthy constitution are not immune to the effects either. Starting from nasal and eye irritation, a long list of diseases, some of which are fatal, can be attributed to dust pollution.
Dust particles are so small that they pass through the nasal passage and travel to the deepest parts of the lungs and cause damage. Toxic and cancer-causing chemicals are too common and are often to be found in dust form as well. Other probable diseases include breathing difficulties, respiratory and pulmonary diseases, diminished lung function, weakened immune systems, pneumonia, asthma, emphysema, heart attacks and strokes.
Farah Naz Haque
Dhanmondi, Dhaka

WE ARE in crying need of a neat and clean environment to keep our body fit. If we are physically fit we can enjoy our life. Only sick people can realise the importance of health. Definitely, it is the blessing of the Almighty to remain fit. But nowadays sickness is a common factor. Air pollution causes serious health hazards in Dhaka city. WASA, Petrobangla, Rajuk and the Department of Environment are responsible to keep the city clean.
Sweepers sweep the roads early in the morning everyday. During cleaning of the roads, a lot of dust fly and float in the air. We feel ill at ease to walk along those roads at that time and those who are afflicted with asthma suffer much more and are at the risk of falling seriously ill. Besides this, buses, cars and motorbikes pollute the environment by running fast. If our authorities take steps to clean roads and highways using water, we will not find any dust on roads. According to the medical science, some germs the source of which is dust are wafted along by air. When these germs enter our bodies we fall sick.
To get rid of this problem we all should pay attention to keeping our areas and environment clean. Lessons should be taught on cleanliness and its positive impact on society. It is our responsibility to keep our roadside, schools, colleges, universities, markets, highways, footpaths, playgrounds, offices and railway stations neat and clean. We should also inspire our authorities concerned to play their roles in this regard perfectly to look after our environment. Out print and electronic media should come forward to disseminate their views on the positive impact of cleanliness so that people at large become aware of the fact that cleanliness can help us to remain hale and hearty. It has been proved that a dirty environment is responsible for serious health hazards. Rotten plants, dirty clothes, dead animals and dirty waters infested with germs, giving off bad smell, cause serious air pollution. Dirty things always float in the air and try to enter our body. We fall sick off and on as our government and, for that matter, its departments concerned are not taking any steps to discharge their duties properly. The officials of these departments occupy their posts without discharging their duties which they are entrusted with. They never think of the ordinary people who are toiling hard in dirty places to keep their body and soul together. Greater responsibility devolves upon the government and its concerned departments to keep the country and its environment clean so that people along with their children can remain healthy and safe from diseases. However, we all should act in a body to take the cleanliness drive in no time for the sake of our children.
Azmeri Zannath
WE ALL know that Dhaka is our capital city. For this reason the people of every place in Bangladesh are inseparably related to this city. Dhaka is the 8th largest city in the world by its land measure. At present, its population is going to touch the number of two crores. As such, we have to think more about Dhaka city than anything else. Everyday a large number of people are crowded in this city from different parts of Bangladesh and abroad. But people are facing different kinds of problems after landing here from different environments. The major problem that they are facing here is the problem of serious health hazards. At the moment, I won’t hesitate to say that at present this city is posing several serious health hazards to its inhabitants. Poisonous gases being emitted by motor-driven transports and mills are swirling in the sky here and there. The fresh atmosphere of Dhaka in the past is to be found nowhere in the city. Dust particles spread out everywhere in the city from under-construction buildings, flyovers and streets. Dusts naturally envelop all the places due to the lack of cleanliness drives on the streets, unused lands, playgrounds and parks. At present, the increasing temperature of the world is a strong cause for the creation of dust. With dust spread in the sky and air, Dhaka has already been declared a threat to health and people’s wellbeing. We are facing different kinds of diseases, such as allergy, asthma, asphyxia, fluxes, cough etc. from time to time. Our respiratory system is also threatened by the air pollution. We are continuously falling prey to unhealthy foods on footpaths. And it is a difficult task for us to avoid these unhealthy foods as these are being sold in dirty places by the poor people in the city. So we should make it a point to provide a solution to make our Dhaka city free from any dust. We know that it is extremely difficult but if we can make sure to raise awareness about cleanliness among people from all walks of life in the city it will not be that difficult to turn our Dhaka city into a dust-free city in future. The ruling party divided our Dhaka city into two parts, one Dhaka-north and another Dhaka-south, in 2011 to make sure that both the parts are provided with better service for the sake of the city dwellers. We are aware that our prime minister Sheikh Hasina is very sincere about this matter. However, we would request our prime minister to pressure the department of environment so that it discharges its duties to the best of its ability. I hope that this department will be advised by its higher authorities to act earnestly to save Dhaka city. We need to remember that we have a vision to turn our country into a healthy, clean, and beautiful place for the present and future generations by 2021. This vision should goad us on to build a dust-free Dhaka. The government should formulate a rule against spreading dust by builders of different institutes. Authorities should make it a point to instruct their workers to clean the streets using water regularly. We need to have grass grown over our playgrounds, parks and all other empty spaces. We should also plant shrubs and saplings over them in a befitting manner. Finally, I would say that we want a dust-free Dhaka city and we need to raise awareness about it among the people around us. Only awareness of it can bring maximum success in this regard.
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