Bangladesh takes steps to improve air quality

On Jan. 30, the capital Dhaka was ranked on the Air Quality Index (AQI) as having the worst air pollution in the world. (AP)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Bangladesh takes steps to improve air quality

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s government is taking a number of initiatives to improve the country’s air quality.
On Jan. 30, the capital Dhaka was ranked on the Air Quality Index (AQI) as having the worst air pollution in the world.
“We’re planning a number of initiatives to upgrade the AQI of the city,” Dr. Monjurul Hannan of the Department of Environment told Arab News.
Brick kilns in Dhaka’s vicinity are “responsible for 52 percent of the pollution” in the area, and the government is urging owners of these kilns to “use efficient and sustainable energy,” he said.
“Around 60 percent of the brick kilns have switched to efficient energy sources. We’re monitoring them closely so the rest will do the same. We’re also discouraging unregistered brick kilns from operating in the area.”
Over the years, air quality in Bangladesh has declined at an alarming rate, particularly during winter. The AQI’s real-time map shows that Dhaka’s air quality is “extremely unhealthy.”
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the AQI, which is divided into six categories indicating levels of concern over health.
A value of more than 300 represents hazardous air quality, and below 50 indicates that it is good. Dhaka consistently ranks between 301 and 500.
“Dhaka is one of most populated and polluted cities in the world, and it’s becoming more polluted every day,” Dr. Atik Rahman, a renowned environmentalist and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, told Arab News.
“Numerous brick kilns around the city are producing huge levels of dust and smoke. Garment and leather factories in and around the city, and other industries on the outskirts, are also adding to the level of pollution,” said Rahman, who is executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies.
“In addition, we have many high-rise buildings under construction, and these construction sites are seriously adding to air pollution.”
Hannan said: “Dhaka faces the highest level of air pollution during winter, since we don’t get much rain then.”
He added: “Under-construction buildings and roads are adding more dust to the environment, making the situation even worse.
“Private construction operators must strictly maintain the (government’s) building code and carry material more carefully so as to avoid more dust.”
Five of the top 10 causes of death in Bangladesh are related to air pollution, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Rahman said: “At present, the people of Dhaka are suffering from respiratory problems and various lung-related diseases due to inhaling polluted air every day.”
He added: “We need to decrease the population pressure on this city, otherwise there will be no sustainable solution to this air pollution.
“We also need to improve the urban traffic system and make it more efficient, as traffic jams result in burning fuel inefficiently, adding more and more particulate matter 2.5 in the air, which is highly injurious to health when inhaled.”


Philippines’ Duterte loses patience, orders trash shipped back Canada

Updated 22 May 2019
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Philippines’ Duterte loses patience, orders trash shipped back Canada

  • Canada says the waste, exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, was a commercial transaction not backed by the Canadian government
  • Canada has since offered to take the rubbish back

MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his government to hire a private shipping company to send 69 containers of garbage back to Canada and leave them within its territorial waters if it refuses to accept the trash, his spokesman said on Wednesday.
“The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by other foreign nation,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told a media briefing.
Canada says the waste, exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, was a commercial transaction not backed by the Canadian government.
Canada has since offered to take the rubbish back and the two countries are in the process of arranging the transfer.
But Canada missed a May 15 deadline set by Manila to take back the shipment, prompting the Philippines to withdraw top diplomats from Canada last week.
“Obviously, Canada is not taking this issue nor our country seriously. The Filipino people are gravely insulted about Canada treating this country as a dump site,” Panelo said.
The Canadian embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Philippines has made several diplomatic protests to Canada since a 2016 court ruling that the garbage be returned.
The consignments were labelled as containing plastics to be recycled in the Philippines but were filled with a variety of rubbish including diapers, newspapers and water bottles.
The issue is not the only one to strain ties between the two countries.
Last year, Duterte ordered the military to cancel a $233 million deal to buy 16 helicopters from Canada, after Ottawa expressed concern they could be used to fight rebels.