Dhaka, Sept 2 (UNB) – The government has taken a series of measures to tackle air pollution in the capital and protect the environment, said Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin.
In an interview with UNB, 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 percent air pollution in the capital,” he said. “Plans have been taken to shut the [traditional] kilns currently in operation. We’re working to produce eco-friendly bricks.”
The minister said the government plans to stop burning bricks at kilns by 2025 and use block bricks to construct buildings under government projects.
Kiln owners have already been directed to produce 10 percent block bricks.
“It’ll be increased to 100 percent over time,” he said. “The use of block bricks will be gradually made mandatory in private projects, too.”
Shahab Uddin said they have written to the metro rail project authorities for protecting the environment during the mega construction work. Spraying water to stop dust from spreading and covering construction material and sites have been recommended.
The government is monitoring whether the authorities implementing various development projects in the city are using mechanisms to preserve the environment, 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 question about factories polluting the city’s environment, he said mills and factories which are not eco-friendly will be shifted outside the capital soon.
“The authorities won’t issue ‘no objection certificate’ if factories aren’t made eco-friendly ones,” 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’s possible to produce fertiliser and gas if these wastes are preserved properly,” he said.
‘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.
Although there is no data on the daily or annual demand and production of polythene bags in Bangladesh, an environmental organisation 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 Mandatory Jute Packaging Act making the use of jute bags compulsory instead of plastic sacks for packing paddy, rice, wheat, maize, sugar and fertiliser.
But lax implementation of the law means polythene bags are still widely available and used throughout the country.
“We’ve banned polythene and are conducting drives to stop its use,” the minister said, noting that using polythene is permitted in some cases.
He said the government is trying to stop the use of polythene by providing a suitable alternative in the form of Sonali Bag.
This bag, made from jute cellulose, looks and feels like plastic but is completely biodegradable, according to its inventor Prof Dr Mubarak Ahmad Khan.
Minister Shahab Uddin hoped that it will be available in the market very soon.
Meanwhile, the authorities are planning to allow customers return polythene and plastic bags to the sellers in exchange for money. These plastics 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
Replying to a question on the increasing sound pollution in Dhaka, he said the authorities concerned have prohibited the use of hydraulic horns.
“Sound pollution can be prevented if people become more aware,” he said.
The minister said the government is working to raise awareness about sound pollution among drivers.
“We had a meeting with the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority about 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. “The environment and the Sundarbans will not be harmed if Rampal [Power Plant] is set up.”
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.