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Minister: Govt doing everything to combat air pollution

  • Published at 06:45 pm September 1st, 2019
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File photo of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister, Md Shahab Uddin Collected

‘Jute bags to replace plastic ones’

The government has taken a series of measures to tackle air pollution in Dhaka and protect the environment, said Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin.

He blamed various development projects in general and brick kilns in particular, for the unhealthy air quality of Dhaka.

“Brick kilns are responsible for 58% of the air pollution in Dhaka,” he said. “Plans have been taken to shut the [traditional] kilns currently in operation. We are working to produce eco-friendly bricks.”

The government plans to put a halt to burning of bricks in kilns by 2025, also to use block bricks in construction of buildings under government projects, the minister said.

Kiln owners have already been directed to produce 10% block bricks, he added.

“The production will be increased to 100% over the time,” he said. “The use of block bricks will gradually be made mandatory in private projects, too.”

Shahab Uddin said, they have written to the authorities of metro rail project, for spraying water and to cover construction materials and sites, to stop dust from spreading and protecting the environment during the mega construction works.

The government is monitoring whether the authorities in the city are implementing the mechanisms to preserve the environment or not, he said.

Sixteen camps have been set up in Dhaka and district towns to assess air quality. “Steps will be taken after getting assessment reports,” the minister said.

Replying to a query about factories polluting the city’s environment, he said mills and factories that are not eco-friendly will be shifted outside Dhaka soon.

“The authorities will not issue a ‘no objection certificate’ if factories do not make their houses eco-friendly,” he warned.

About coordinated efforts of the two Dhaka city corporations to stop environmental pollution through e-waste management, the minister said he was in touch with the city corporations.

“It is possible to produce fertilizer and gas if these wastes are preserved properly,” he informed.

‘Sonali bag to be available soon’

When the minister’s attention was drawn to the indiscriminate sale of polythene bags, he said it is not possible to shut all the factories as they are scattered all over the place.

There is no data on the daily or annual demand and production of polythene bags in Bangladesh. An environmental organization estimated last year that the residents of Dhaka use 14-15 million pieces of polythene bags every day.

Polythene is considered to be one of the main reasons for the clogging of drains in the city. In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban thin polythene.

Eight years later, the government formulated the Jute Packaging Act mandatory making the use of jute bags compulsory instead of plastic sacks for packaging purposes.

But negligence in implementation of the law again brought back polythene bags in wide use.

“We have banned polythene and are conducting drives to stop its use. Instead we are providing a suitable alternative in the form of Sonali Bag,” the minister said. 

The bag made from jute cellulose looks and feels like plastic but, is completely biodegradable, said Prof Dr Mubarak Ahmad Khan, the inventor of the bag.

Minister Shahab Uddin hoped that it will be available in the market very soon.

On the other hand the authorities are planning to collect polythene bags from customers in exchange for money. The collected bags will be reserved to produce fuel. Shop owners, who will collect polythene and plastic bags from customers, will be given incentives, he said.

Curbing sound pollution

Regarding sound pollution, the minister said the authorities concerned have prohibited the use of hydraulic horns.

“Sound pollution can be prevented if people are made more aware,” he said.

The government is working to raise awareness about sound pollution among drivers, the minister said.

“We held a meeting with the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority regarding preventing emission of black smoke from unfit vehicles,” he said.

Police and BRTA will work together to reduce the problem, Shahab Uddin said.

‘Rampal won’t harm Sundarbans’

In the interview, the minister also defended the coal-fired Rampal Power Plant project near the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.

“Nothing that can harm the environment has been done,” he said. “Rampal [Power Plant]  will not harm the environment and the Sundarbans.”

The government’s decision to set up the coal-fired plant drew criticism from environmentalists who argue that the move will damage Sundarbans, known for its biodiversity and fragile ecology.

“We’re capable of implementing terms given to keep the Sundarbans on the list of world heritage,” the minister said.