The government is drafting a law to ensure clean air -- keeping provisions to hold polluters, including companies and public agencies, accountable.
A draft copy of the proposed Clean Air Act says a convicted person can receive less than two years' imprisonment for first offence, and between two and 10 years' imprisonment for repeated offence.
The draft law, which incorporates 32 sections and some sub-sections, was shared with the media during a workshop at Hotel InterContinental Dhaka yesterday.
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change arranged the workshop to consult several aspects of the law with different stakeholders.
Sultan Ahmed, director general of the Department of Environment (DoE), said they are hopeful about enacting a timely law which will help ensure “clean air -- a necessity for good health”.
The draft copy has been discussed at different levels with stakeholders, he said, welcoming participants at the workshop.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association -- which is a stakeholder in preparing the draft law -- said several countries have given emphasis on air pollution and also enacted extensive laws.
The law will be instrumental in safeguarding environment in Bangladesh, she hoped while presenting a paper on it.
A final copy of the draft law will be prepared within March. Before that, further opinions from stakeholders will be sought, she added.
As per section 25 (3) of the draft law, the DoE may order relocation, closure, suspension of development, construction or operation of stationary sources of air pollution until proper measures to protect the environment are put in place.
A stationary source punished by the DoE under section 25 (3) shall face permanent closure if it's found guilty for a third offence.
Section 7 of the draft law says the government may, by notification in the official gazette, declare an area “critical (non-attainment) or special control area”.
An Air Pollution Control Advisory Council comprising of 29 members will be constituted by the government with the environment, forests, and climate change minister as its chairperson, says section 11 (1) of the draft law.
The DoE shall be the primary agency responsible for implementing measures concerning air quality and the implementation of the act, says section 14 (1).
As per section 15, an annual National Air Quality Status Report will be prepared by DoE.
As per section 26 (1), where an offence under this act has been committed by a company, every person who was directly in charge of the conduct of business of the company shall be deemed guilty.
As per section 27 (1), where an offence under this act has been committed by any agency of the government, the head of the agency shall be deemed guilty of the offence.
Addressing the workshop as chief guest, Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin said maintaining a balance between development and safe environment is a major challenge for the present government.
“If biodiversity is not maintained alongside development then we will fall behind in achieving sustainable development goals within 2030,” he said.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on environment, forest and climate change, said the country's air quality reaches “critical stage” during dry season, from October to March.
The law should be passed in the parliament before dry season begins, he said.
Prof Md Ali Ahammad Shoukat Chowdhury of Buet, which is helping in preparing the draft law, among others, also spoke at the workshop.