According to a report that is the first to assess the global cost of air pollution, in 2018 air pollution cost the world an estimated USD 2.9 trillion. The World Health Organization (WHO) already approximates that globally air pollution accounts for 29 percent of all deaths and disease from lung cancer, 17 percent from acute lower respiratory infection, and a quarter from stroke and heart disease.
Bad air quality is one index where Dhaka consistently tops the global chart—and more recently, it has cemented its place at the very top. A World Bank report previously estimated that Bangladesh loses about USD 6.5 billion every year due to pollution and environmental degradation in urban areas. However, given that the study is a few years old, and that air pollution has gotten significantly worse over the past years, the cost can safely be assumed to be higher now.
The environment, forest and climate change minister said that brick kilns are responsible for more than half the air pollution in the capital, followed by smog from a staggering number of unfit vehicles plying the city streets. But then again, we all know this. Different health and environmental groups have repeatedly highlighted this problem. And the media has time and again covered this issue. It is the authorities who have not done their part to address it. Given that the major causes of air pollution are well known and a number of clear-cut solutions have already been suggested to the government, the fact that the government has not responded timely is shameful, particularly because air pollution is responsible for the deaths and health problems of countless people including children.
The minister has also said that the authorities are looking into the matter. But what the authorities must realise is that people's lives and health are at stake here, which is why they must stop dithering about and act quickly.