FE Today Logo

City dwellers exposed to health risks for air and plastic pollution

FE REPORT | July 10, 2023 00:00:00

Dhaka city dwellers are at severe health risks due to air and plastic pollution caused by fast-growing urbanisation and industrialisation.

Besides, the use of plastic products among the citizens is increasing day by day while waste management is not being done accordingly. The pollution also causes economic losses.

The issues were discussed at a knowledge-sharing workshop with journalists titled 'Promoting Green Cities through Awareness Building on Air and Plastic Pollution' organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in the city on Sunday.

Deaths from diseases linked to air pollution have risen by 9 per cent over the past 20 years, according to a keynote presentation of the CPD.

The Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) study estimated that the citizens of Dhaka city are losing more than eight years of life expectancy on an average.

Air pollution is increasing in the city mainly due to poorly maintained building construction activities and operation of unfit motor vehicles, speakers viewed at the event.

Poor air quality has significant health impacts that cause different diseases including type-2 diabetes, lower respiratory infection, pulmonary diseases, ischemic and cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and chronic heart diseases, the speakers stated.

Particulate matter pollution may even affect the neurological system of the newborns and exposure to unclean air may induce diseases increasing healthcare cost for individuals, they noted.

Each citizen had to spend an average of Tk8,334 on healthcare out of pocket because of air pollution-induced diseases in 2019, says the keynote presentation. More than 10 million people in Dhaka city are exposed to poor air quality, shows data of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).

Besides, air pollution level in Bangladeshi cities is 15 times higher than WHO guidelines, and five times higher than the annual Bangladesh National Ambient Air Quality Standards (BNAAQS).

In Dhaka alone, the average consumption of plastics per person increased from 9.2 kg in 2005 to 22.25 kg in 2020.

On the other hand, 646 tonnes of plastic waste is generated in Dhaka every year, of which 48 per cent is dumped in landfills, 37 per cent is recycled, 12 per cent enters rivers and three per cent is processed in other ways, the presentation showed.

Plastic pollution may have substantial economic costs for tourism and aquaculture and fisheries industries and may contribute to a large magnitude of the clean-up cost for the government of Bangladesh.

The estimated average annual income loss from tourism, and aquaculture and fisheries in 2020 were US$ 11.5 million and roughly US$ 2 million, respectively.

Toxic plastics may also lead to various diseases like cardiovascular, genotoxic and gastrointestinal ones. The think-tank suggested making investment in renewable energies and green technology to reduce air pollution.

It also recommended reducing the quantity of plastic entering the value chain by promoting the use of sustainable, affordable, and alternative materials of plastics.

Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director, and Syed Yusuf Saadat, research fellow of the CPD, delivered remarks and made keynote presentation respectively at the programme.

[email protected]

Share if you like