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Dhaka slums face severe air pollution

People in Dhaka slums face many serious health hazards due to severe air pollution which is more than twice the permissible level, finds a study released on Wednesday.

Researchers have found that the concentration of PM2.5 is 166 microgram per cubic metre in the air of Match Colony slum, Shyampur. The figure is more than twice the national standard of 65 micrograms set by the Department of Environment.

The concentration of PM2.5 is 117 microgram in the air of City Polli Slum, Dholpur.

Particulate matter which has a diameter less than 2.5 micrometres is called PM2.5 and 100 times thinner than human hair and can even enter the bloodstream of humans. PM2.5 can directly enter the respiratory system and even nose hair fails to catch them. Thus, it can create lung cancer and different types of health hazards.

Plan International Bangladesh, Population Services and Training Centre (PSTC), Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiatives (BYEI), Urban and Regional Planning Department of Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET), and International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) jointly did the research titled “Urban localised pollution in the context of climate change,” in the Match Colony and City Polli slums.

Professor Afsana Haque, of the Urban and Regional Planning Department of BUET, and Sarder Shafiqul Alam, coordinator of ICCCAD, presented the findings at a webinar.

There are around 100 factories including rolling mills, plastic manufacturing units, and printing presses, which are the most air polluting industries near the Match Colony Slum.

The study also highlighted the poor sanitation and hygiene problems in the slums.

It said 15-20 people use one toilet. When multiple toilets become unusable due to waterlogging and other causes, as many as 80 people have to use only one toilet.

Slum-dwellers have to buy water, electricity, and other utilities from private sources at higher prices as the government does not provide these services to these areas. They often have to wait up to two hours in line for water as there is no water source on their premises.

Around 20,000 people live in these two slums. Dhaka city has 5,000 slums housing four million people.

The researchers found that waterlogging is a common problem in slums and water mixed with waste and stool will sometimes inundate houses, particularly in the monsoon season.

“Air quality has improved but still, it is not suitable to inhale,” said Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) Minister Md Tajul Islam, speaking as the chief guest.

“There is a waste management system in Dhaka city, but we have to come up with a new model. I have talked to both the mayors of Dhaka city corporations about developing a new model of waste collection.”

Dr Saleemul Huq, director of ICCCAD, suggested multiple solutions to such problems which are complex in nature.

Professor Satya Prasad Majumder, the vice-chancellor of BUET, Professor Md Musleh Uddin Hasan, head of urban and regional planning of BUET, Professor Dr Abdul Jabbar Khan, pro-vice-chancellor of BUET. Manik Kumar Saha, project manager for Plan International Bangladesh, and Afroz Mahal, director (Programme Management and Implementation) at Plan International Bangladesh, also spoke at the programme.

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