Dhaka has long been grappling with severe air pollution. Air quality in some other major cities in Bangladesh including Khulna continues to deteriorate, posing serious health risks to the residents.

It’s been a year since World Health Organization launched a project to transform Khulna into a healthier city. Besides, Khulna City Corporation and other agencies concerned are also working to make the city a healthy one by 2027.

However, air pollution remains the biggest challenge in achieving that goal. Although the air quality has been comparatively tolerable in the past few days, Khulna’s overall air quality in the past few months has been ‘Unhealthy’.

Experts and officials concerned said dust from construction sites, smoke from old vehicles, and use of toxic fuel are the major reasons behind the polluted air of the city.

As construction and renovation works are going on in different parts of the city the level of air pollution has increased, they said.

At the Boyra intersection in the city, air pollution levels in the city are being measured round-the-clock from the Continuous Air Monitoring Stations (CAMS) of the Department of Environment, which is published every day in the form of a report on CAMS' website.

According to CAMS’ observation, Khulna’s air quality was ‘extremely unhealthy’ in November and December last. On February 15, the CAMS cited the city’s air quality as ‘extremely unhealthy’ once again.

In addition, the air quality on March 17 and 18 was substantially worse than usual.

Experts say that the normal value of particulate matter in the air of a place or PPM (parts per million) is 150 cubic meters in 24 hours.

However, analysis of CAMS’ report showed there have been over 250 cubic meters of particulate matter in Khulna's air in the last few months. The number hit 400-450 cubic meters a few times during this period.

The UNB correspondent noticed the problem of air pollution while visiting various parts of the city.

Most of the roads from the city’s Shonadanga area to Shahid Sheikh Abu Naser Hospital and Khalishpur area are in still in bad shape. Due to the ongoing construction work, air quality of the areas adjacent to these roads has become extremely unhealthy.

Meanwhile, the link roads from Joragate, Ahsan Ahmed road, Shamsur Rahman road, BIDC road, Khan Jahan Ali Shorok, Shipyard road, Mujgunni highway and Bus Terminal area of the city to Boyra, Notun Rasta, link roads close to the bus terminal have become dangerous due to excessive dust. Therefore, people are avoiding these areas and roads.

Tanvir Haydar, a senior chemist at the Department of Environment in Khulna,  said due to the excessive dust being originated from the construction work, the amount of heavy particles are on the rise in the air.

“And exposure to such hazardous pollutants causes a variety of respiratory illnesses, such as cough and asthma,“ he added.

Dr Md Khosrul Alam, head of the Department of Respiratory Medicine at Khulna Medical College, said, “The number of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma patients in Khulna is believed to be increasing due to air pollution. If the amount of hazardous particles in the air is high, it easily damages the lungs every time a person breathes. As a result, various respiratory illnesses, including COPD, asthma, are increasing.”

This chest specialist believes extensive research needs to be done in this regard.

Meanwhile, chief health officer of Khulna City Corporation Dr Shawpan Kumar Haldar said children are more vulnerable to respiratory disease such as asthma and pneumonia due to the air pollution.

Dr Mehedi Newaz, vice principal at Khulna Medical College said construction works have been going on in the city to fix the problem of waterlogging and the development of road networks.

“Due to this reason, air pollution is increasing in the city. We’re hoping that it will be resolved quickly. Meanwhile, any necessary action will be taken by addressing the issue at the next meeting,” he said.

Contacted, Khulna City Corporation (KCC) Mayor Talukder Abdul Khaleque said, We usually carry out the development projects in the dry season. Currently, majority of the city's areas are undergoing road and drainage maintenance work. As a result, the amount of dust has increased. Once the projects are completed, the air quality will be tolerable again as the monsoon is approaching.

Air pollution consistently ranks among the top risk factors for death and disability worldwide. Breathing polluted air has long been recognised as increasing a person’s chances of developing a heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, lung infections and cancer, according to several studies.

As per the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.

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