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The South Asian Times | সাউথ এশিয়ান টাইমস

Bangladesh needs urgent action to curb air pollution

Staff Correspondent

Published: 20:49, 28 March 2023

Bangladesh needs urgent action to curb air pollution

A new World Bank (WB) report shows that there  are economically feasible, cost-effective solutions to achieve clean air in  the South Asia region, but this requires countries to coordinate policies and  investments. South Asia is home to nine of the world's 10 cities with the worst air  pollution, and Dhaka is one of them.  The report said air pollution is responsible for about 20 percent of the  total premature deaths in Bangladesh.
The report titled "Striving for Clean Air: Air Pollution and Public Health in  South Asia," presented yesterday in Dhaka, says concentrations of fine  particulate matter such as soot and small dust (PM2.5) in some of the  region's most densely populated and poor areas are up to 20 times higher than  WHO standard (5 µg/m?). 
In South Asia, it causes an estimated two million premature deaths each year  and incurs significant economic costs. Exposure to such extreme air pollution  has impacts ranging from stunting and reduced cognitive development in  children, to respiratory infections and chronic and debilitating diseases. 
This drives up healthcare costs, lowers a country's productive capacity, and  leads to lost days worked, said a press release here today.
 "Air pollution creates a serious threat to public health and has major 
consequences on economic growth," said Abdoulaye Seck, WB country director  for Bangladesh and Bhutan.
"Evidence shows that with commitment, the right actions, and policies, it is  possible to tackle air pollution. Bangladesh has already taken steps to  improve air quality management, including the approval of the Air Pollution  Control Rules. Along with strong national actions, transboundary solutions  will be important to curb air pollution. Through analytical work and new  investments, the World Bank is helping Bangladesh reduce the air pollution,"  he added.
 Air pollution travels long distances, crossing national boundaries-and gets  trapped in large "airsheds" that are shaped by climatology and geography.  
The report identifies six major airsheds in South Asia where spatial  interdependence in air quality is high. Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and  Pakistan, share a common airshed that spans the Indo Gangetic Plain.  Particulate matter in each airshed comes from various sources and locations,  for example, in many cities, such as Dhaka, Kathmandu and Colombo, only one- third of the air pollution originates within the city. 
Recognizing the transboundary nature of air pollution, four South Asian  nations-- Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan-- for the first time joined  together to draw up the Kathmandu Roadmap for improving air quality in the  Indo-Gangetic Plain and Himalayan Foothills.
 "Air pollution is not limited to a city, state, or national boundaries- it 
is transboundary in nature," said Cecile Fruman, WB director for Regional  Integration for South Asia. 
Bangladesh and a few other South Asian countries have adopted policies to  help improve air quality. But, along with taking action at the district and  country level, it is also urgent that coordinated transboundary actions are  taken with the neighboring countries. 
The report shows that current policy measures focused on power plants, large  factories and transportation will only be partially successful in reducing  PM2.5 concentrations across South Asia even if fully implemented. 
To achieve greater progress, the focus of policymakers should expand into  other sectors, particularly small manufacturing, agriculture, residential  cooking and waste management.
The report analyzes four scenarios to reduce air pollution with varying  degrees of policy implementation and cooperation among countries. 
The most cost-effective scenario, which calls for full coordination between  airsheds, would cut the average exposure of PM2.5 in South Asia to 30 µg/m³ at  a cost of US$278 million per µg/m? of reduced exposure and save more than  750,000 lives annually. 
To this end, the report offers a three-phased roadmap:
Phase 1: Sets the condition for airshed wide coordination by expanding the  monitoring of air pollution beyond the big cities, sharing data with the  public, creating or strengthening credible scientific institutes that analyze  airsheds, and taking a whole-of-government approach.
Phase 2: Abatement interventions are broadened beyond the traditional targets  of power plants, large factories and transportation. During this phase major  progress can be made in reducing air pollution from agriculture, solid waste  management, cookstoves, brick kilns, and other small firms. At the same time,  airshed-wide standards can be introduced.
Phase 3: Economic incentives are fine-tuned to enable private-sector  solutions, to address distributional impacts, and to exploit synergies with  climate change policies. In this phase trading of emission permits can also 
be introduced to optimize abatement across jurisdictions and firms.