Due to hazardous levels of air pollution, a parliamentary body yesterday asked the environment, forest and climate change ministry to take measures so that the health ministry issues a public health alert urging people to avoid the capital, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Chattogram cities, unless it is an emergency.
If implemented this would be the first ever initiative that warns people about the country's hazardous level of air pollution.
Awami League MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury, chief of the parliamentary standing committee on environment, after a parliamentary meeting, told The Daily Star that in the public health alert, people would be urged to not visit Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Chattogram cities, unless it is urgent, as the air pollution in these cities have reached hazardous levels.
According to the World Health Organization, AQI up to 50 is considered as safe level while AQI having 300 is considered as hazardous level.
Saber also said the committee was informed that the air quality index (AQI) of Dhaka was 479 yesterday. In Narayanganj, AQI was 420 while in Gazipur and Chattogram, it was above 300.
Saber added that countries like China, Thailand and even India issue public health advisories if their AQI reaches 300.
“In that case, they keep their schools and colleges closed,” he said.
“In Bangladesh we have also asked to issue a public health alert whenever the AQI will reach 300,” he said, adding that the issuance of such a warning suggests people not to come out of their houses if not an emergency.
If any educational institutions want, they will be able to temporarily close their institutions during the time of a public health alert, Saber, also former chief of Inter-Parliamentary Union, said.
The parliamentary watchdog yesterday in its meeting also asked the environment ministry to hold an inter-ministerial meeting on an emergency basis which will include housing and public works ministry, roads, bridges and transport ministry, and the home ministry along with city mayors to enforce environment related laws.
The Jatiya Sangsad committee's recommendation came at a time when Bangladesh has ranked the most polluted air in the world and Dhaka is the second most polluted capital city, according to a new study.
“At a country level, weighted by population, Bangladesh emerges as the most polluted country,” said the 2018 World Air Quality Report released on Tuesday.
Greenpeace and AirVisual, who monitor global air quality, prepared the report based on last year's data collected from public monitoring sources.