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.”


Members of first all-female Afghan orchestra missing in Slovakia

Updated 43 min 11 sec ago
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Members of first all-female Afghan orchestra missing in Slovakia

  • Zohra, an ensemble of 35 teenagers and young women musicians, played a concert on Saturday at a festival in the western town of Trencin
  • Some members of Zohra are orphans or from poor families

BRATISLAVA: Police in Slovakia said on Thursday they were searching for four members of Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra who went missing from their hotel after performing at a local festival.
Zohra, an ensemble of 35 teenagers and young women musicians, played a concert on Saturday at a festival in the western town of Trencin, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Bratislava, near the Czech border.
Four members went missing from their hotel on Sunday, Slovak police said.
“I can confirm that the search for two female teenagers and two female adults from Afghanistan is ongoing,” Pavol Kudlicka, a spokesperson for the Trencin regional police, told AFP on Thursday.
He added that the musicians returned to their hotel after the concert but went missing the next morning.
“Due to legal reasons and the ongoing investigation no names can be disclosed for now,” Kudlicka added.
Local Slovak media reported that some orchestra members had said that one of the girls had a cousin in Germany.
Some members of Zohra are orphans or from poor families.
They have faced death threats in their homeland where music was banned during the Taliban’s repressive 1996-2001 rule.
Music is still frowned upon in much of Afghan society, which is tightly segregated by gender.
Despite the disappearance, the Zohra orchestra, named after a Persian goddess of music, played several concerts in western Slovakia this week.
They have performed at home and abroad, notably at the closing the World Economic Forum in Davos two years ago.