Newborns and the elderly are increasingly suffering from respiratory diseases
Lokman Hossain, a student waiting for a bus at Tangail’s Elenga bus stop, while dusting sand particles from his clothes, expressed his anger and concern about the severe air pollution in the area.
The situation is the same for hundreds and thousands of people using the Dhaka-Tangail Highway who are suffering greatly because of extreme dust pollution which is causing respiratory diseases and road safety hazards.
Kalihati upazila's Elenga bus stand on the Dhaka-Tangail-Bangabandhu Bridge Highway is considered the entrance to the northern part of Bangladesh. Every day, people from at least 24 districts travel to different parts of Bangladesh through here, and 14-15 thousand vehicles use this highway, on average.
The reporter went to the site to experience the acute problem firsthand, and saw that due to the dense formations of dust particles in the air, people on either side of the highway cannot see each other across the road.
All the shops and other buildings situated near the highway are covered with thick layers of grey dust; and the passengers waiting for their buses are trying their best to stay away from the unavoidable dust storms caused by the passing vehicles.
Even the places and stalls where someone might go to have refreshments or eat, potential customers cannot as all the chairs and tables are covered with sand and dust.
With great dismay, people who regularly travel this route explained how the clothes they wear become covered with dust and sand; even just waiting five minutes for transportation. They find this an embarrassing situation to contend with.
According to the local businessmen, due to intense air pollution, the number of consumers coming to stores is reduces daily.
Meanwhile, a wide variety of airborne diseases are spreading among the people of this area; especially affecting the elderly and newborns.
Inspector SM Shahidur Rahman, who is responsible for traffic control at the Elenga bus stand, said: "The unbearable dust formations and air pollutants have made our lives miserable and have become a major issue for us to efficiently perform our duties.
"Police officers, along with the locals, are suffering from various airborne diseases. This situation needs to be addressed and resolved as soon as possible or else things will worsen for all of us."
Addressing the situation Tangail General Hospital's Doctor Shujauddin Talukdar said: "People who are exposed to such adverse and extreme dust are prone to obtaining serious types of respiratory diseases including lung infections and asthma, nose bleeds, and permanent damage to their sense of smell. The risk is even higher for newborns and the elderly."
When asked for comment about the proceedings, Elenga Municipality Mayor Nur A Alam Siddique said: "People's lives are in immense distress and disarray due to this air pollution situation. I have mentioned this to the higher authorities but to no effect. No initiatives to solve this issue have been taken in the last nine months.
"That there is brick flat soling, on a highway as important as this, is just ridiculous and incomprehensible. Necessary steps need to be taken as soon as possible."
When contacted, Tangail Road and Highways Department Executive Engineer Amimul Ehsan said: "From Elenga bus stand only 300 metres of highway have brick flat soling. The South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) was supposed take care of this but they did not. We will start the construction of this portion of the highway very soon."