Air at two Dhaka slums 5 times thicker than usual

Air density at two of Dhaka’s most marginalised low-income slums is four to five times higher than the permissible limit in Bangladesh for a 24-hour period.

As a result, residents suffer from air pollution-induced diseases like laryngeal problems, asthma and bronchial illnesses.

A study report published yesterday titled “Urban Localised Pollution in the Context of Climate Change” revealed this information at a virtual launching event.

According to the report, the major sources of indoor air pollution in both marginalised areas are earthen stoves for cooking and using biomass as fuel. Women are the most severely affected by air pollution, as they are exposed to smoke for long stretches of time during cooking.

The study was carried out in two large slums of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) — Citypolli slum in Dholpur and Dhaka Match Colony in Shyampur. It focused on four issues — water supply, sanitation, indoor air pollution, and solid waste management.

These low-income settlements are surrounded by different air polluting industries like steel mills, plastic factory, melamine factory, brick kiln, etc.

The research was conducted between December 2020 and January 2021 under Featuring Green Earth Project, jointly implemented by Plan International Bangladesh, Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative (BYEI) and Population Services and Training Center (PSTC).

The project initiated the research in collaboration with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (URP), Buet and International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).

Buet Professor Afsana Haque and ICCCAD Coordinator Sarder Shafiqul Alam shared the research findings in the event.

Under this research, Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS), Stamford University Bangladesh tested the water and air of the research areas.

The air quality report of the CAPS team reveals that Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 and PM10 are found four to five times higher above the permissible limit under Bangladesh standards in a 24-hour period.

The water sample tested by CAPS was contaminated with foreign particles exceeding standard limits in both the study areas. They found E. Coli and ‘uncountable colonies of total coliform’ in the water. The Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD5) and chlorine concentration have been reported excessive as well.

Residents of the two slums said water is often inaccessible, scarce and polluted. Supply is often interrupted and women have to wait hours in queues to collect water.

On average, the households pay Tk 400-500 per month for water services.

Speaking as chief guest, Local Government, Rural Development & Cooperatives Minister Tazul Islam said, “Awareness is key at every stage of society. Community-led initiatives should be encouraged. Government, NGOs and the private sector must collaborate to address challenges related to waste management, water supply, water and air pollution.”

Plan International Bangladesh Director (Programme Management and Implementation) Afroz Mahal said that people migrated to Dhaka often end up in marginalised low-income areas with inadequate basic services and the problem will exacerbate due to impending climate change impacts.

Buet Vice Chancellor Professor Satya Prasad Majumder Vice, PSTC Executive Director Dr Noor Mohammad and ICCCAD Director Professor Saleemul Huq were also present at the event.

Air at two Dhaka slums 5 times thicker than usual | The Daily Star

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