Dhaka air pollution is on the rise, despite new regulations - here's why

Amid reports of worsening air quality in Dhaka, the High Court gathered on Sunday, May 5, 2019, to discuss their frustration and disappointment with the city's persistent dirty air, take action to hold authorities accountable, and devise a renewed approach to handling the urgent situation.

Dhaka is the second most polluted capital in the world, according to the 2018 World Air Quality Report. In 2018, air pollution in the city reached an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 97.1µg/m³, nearly 10 times the WHO guideline of 10µg/m³. The 2018 months of January, February, and December, meanwhile, exceeded this same standard 20 times over, averaging a score of “very unhealthy.” Unfortunately, poor air quality plagues the rest of Bangladesh, as it ranked as the country with the most polluted air in 2018.1

Troubling to both residents and the High Court is the trend of progressively worse air quality. Within the last year alone, PM2.5 concentration in the city has risen by 22%.

Dhaka monthly air pollution PM2.5 dataAnnual and monthly average PM2.5 data for Dhaka, Bangladesh, as recorded by IQAir AirVisual

The bench issued a summons to the head executives of Dhaka city corporations, requesting that they appear to court on May 15 to explain how they plan to tackle air pollution in the capital.2

Earlier in mid-January 2019, the courts had mandated that those corporations spray water twice a day and cover construction and renovation sites, to prevent the spread of new dust during Dhaka’s dry season. On May 15, 2019, when the city corporations appear again, they will be questioned as to why they failed to meet these requirements.

In conducting exploratory research, the Dhaka Tribune found that the majority of directives from the January High Court meetingwere ignored.

The Mass Rapid Transit project, which is underway in locations across Dhaka, is thought to have contributed increased levels of particulate matter, as the project has kicked up dirt from digging tunnels and establishing the underground rail system.

While it is yet to be seen whether the new regulations will help to reduce Dhaka’s air pollution problem, it seems certain more must still be done to reduce the high health risk posed by the air.

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