While the early stages of lockdown reduced vehicular emissions on our roads for a while, clearly, traffic is back to normal, and with it, air pollution
Air pollution has always been a problem in the urban areas, particularly in our capital city. The problem is worsened in the winter season, with increased amounts of dust. In fact, it is an annual pattern that respiratory ailments and various other diseases see an uptick around this time of the year.
Our Air Quality Index, in recent times, has consistently scored as one of the worst in the world, with very high particulate matter exposure. Even in the best of times, many of Dhaka’s residents have had no choice but to wear masks when venturing outdoors, simply for pollution-protection. Now, in the time of Covid-19, these problems are multiplied.
We have editorialized many times about the need to clean up our air. Brick kilns and vehicular emissions are the key culprits, as well dust generated by the poorly planned construction work we see all around the city throughout the year. These problems need a long-term solution. While the early stages of lockdown reduced vehicular emissions on our roads for a while, clearly, traffic is back to normal, and with it, air pollution.
This is, needless to say, a public health hazard. A new study reveals that long-term air pollution may be linked to 15% of Covid-19 deaths globally. Bangladesh has experienced a considerable death toll this pandemic, and so must pay heed.
Scientists from Germany and Cyprus have found that in East Asia, 27% of Covid-19 deaths could be attributed to the health effects of poor air quality. It may take more research to know the combined effects of pollution and Covid-19 in Bangladesh, but it is reasonable to assume that we are all at significant risk.
If we truly take public health seriously, we cannot see Covid-19 as an isolated problem. We must tackle the challenge holistically, and improve our air quality so that we may all breathe easy.