Winter Smog Crisis: Dhaka & New Delhi’s Pollution Paradox
As winter unfolds, the South Asian capitals of Dhaka and New Delhi find themselves ensnared in a hazardous veil of toxic smog, triggering concerns about air quality and its severe implications on public health. The thick layer of pollutants has plunged the air quality index into the “hazardous” category, with Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, grappling with intensified challenges due to rapid urbanization and overuse of fossil fuels.
Dhaka’s Alarming Air Quality Crisis
Dhaka, among the most densely populated cities globally, is witnessing a concerning deterioration in air quality, reaching a hazardous index level of 325, according to Swiss group IQAir. The city, home to over 20 million people, experiences health problems such as asthma, fever, and allergies among its residents, particularly affecting vulnerable occupations like rickshaw pullers.
Impacts on Daily Lives
Rafiq Mondal, a rickshaw puller, laments the physical toll imposed by the polluted air, stating, “We often suffer from asthma, fever, and allergies while operating rickshaws on the streets. It is often very painful.” The plight of individuals relying on such occupations underscores the immediate health repercussions of the escalating pollution levels.
Struggling Against the Smog in Dhaka
Efforts to combat the hazardous air quality include city authorities spraying water on the streets to settle dust particles. However, residents emphasize the need for more robust measures, especially in the face of ongoing mega projects like the metro rail, contributing to construction-related pollution.
Urgent Calls for Action
Wasim Akhter, a resident, urges authorities to take air pollution more seriously, stating, “The air pollution is taking its toll. With all the mega projects like the metro rail overhead, there is a lot of construction material everywhere. Measures must be taken more seriously.” The urgent call for action reflects the growing realization of the pervasive impact of air pollution on the daily lives of Dhaka’s inhabitants.
Global Perspectives: World Bank’s Concerns
The World Bank has expressed concerns over Bangladesh’s air quality crisis, emphasizing the need for collaborative efforts with neighboring countries in South Asia. Air pollution, a lethal blend of solid particles, liquid droplets, and gases, is responsible for approximately a fifth of the country’s premature deaths annually, according to a World Bank report.
Some areas in Dhaka exhibit fine particulate matter levels exceeding World Health Organization standards by up to 20 times, highlighting the severity of the air quality crisis. These alarming statistics underscore the imperative for immediate and comprehensive intervention to safeguard public health.
Parallel Crisis in New Delhi
Simultaneously, New Delhi, the capital of India, grapples with soaring pollution levels, recording an air quality index reading of 378, categorized as “very poor” by the Central Pollution Control Board. The situation has led to widespread disruptions, including delays in over 100 flights and disturbances in rail services due to dense fog.
The enveloping fog, coupled with the severe pollution, has created a challenging environment, with temperatures around 52 degrees Fahrenheit. The multifaceted impact of the winter conditions underscores the need for coordinated efforts to address both air quality and the associated climatic challenges.
The Way Forward: Urgency and Collaboration
As South Asian capitals confront the winter smog crisis, the urgency for collaborative and immediate action is undeniable. The health and well-being of millions hinge on comprehensive measures that address the root causes of air pollution, regulate urban development, and institute sustainable practices.
The interconnectedness of environmental challenges necessitates shared responsibility, not only within individual cities but across borders. The collaboration urged by the World Bank emphasizes the importance of a united front against air pollution, recognizing its transboundary nature.
In conclusion, the winter smog enveloping Dhaka and New Delhi serves as a stark reminder of the pressing need for global attention to combat air pollution. The detrimental impact on public health, daily lives, and the environment demands strategic interventions, emphasizing the shared responsibility of nations to ensure a cleaner and healthier future.