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Air and River Pollution in Bangladesh: Causes and Solutions

By Md. Sazedur Rahman

After the industrial revolution of 19 th century, environmental issues have become the most
significant topic throughout the world. To protect environment from vulnerable situations various
international and local organizations have been established, for instance ESGP, GEF, IPCC,
IUCN, UNEP, WNO, EEA etc. WHO states that air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water,
inadequate hygiene and lack of sanitation take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years age
in every year. Bangladesh is flat, low-lying riparian and the world's eighth most populous nation
of 160 million people in a land mass of 147,570 km2. Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to natural
Disasters and environmental degradation because of its geographical location, population
density, poverty, illiteracy, lack of maintaining environmental laws, unawareness, lack of proper
ideas and steps etc. At present, Bangladesh faces various environmental problems such as: air
pollution, water pollution, climate change, global warming, deforestation, soil erosion and
degradation, drought, depletion of biodiversity, natural calamities, river pollution and so forth.
Here, air pollution and river pollution in Bangladesh and some suggested steps will be discussed.

Air Pollution

A report of WHO states that, Bangladesh is the 4rth position with worst air quality among 92
countries. It is shown from many scientific studies that air pollution and daily death rates in cities
are positively linked. Air pollution is one of the most challenging problems and this pollution
kills 15000 Bangladeshis each year. Especially, in large cities like Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna,
air pollution is a major environmental hazard. Anne Weaver reported that Respiratory infections
are the leading cause of death in children under the age of five worldwide and in Bangladesh.
Exposure to air pollution is believed to be a major risk factor for respiratory infections on her
article Risk Factors for Air Pollution Exposure in Bangladesh. In rural Bangladesh, brick kilns
and cooking stoves are the major sources of air pollution whereas in urban areas the principal
sources of air pollution are industrial emissions and vehicular emissions. There are 35,993
manufacturing industries in Bangladesh and only in Dhaka city there are 65000 baby-taxies and
more than 296000 motor vehicles. Among these, there are about 65722 vehicles are registered
motor cycle and private car. In Bangladesh, since the length of road is not enough widen, traffic
jam is common scenario in large cities. Air pollution causes respiratory and heart problem, global
warming, acid rain, eutrophication, effect on wildlife, depletion of ozone layer, psychological
hazards etc. We all should come forward to protect air-pollution.


1. Cleaning Smokestack, Flue-gas desulfurization and Carbon capturing technology

It has been discussed that the leading sources of air pollution are industries and vehicles.
They constantly emit fumes and gaseous waste. Cleaning smokestacks is a significant
scientific technology which can be used to control industrial air pollution. A technical
solution to Sulfur Oxide emissions is Flue-gas desulfurization that eliminates the SO2
gasses leaving the smokestacks. Power plans should also use carbon capture and storage
(CCS) that trap emitted CO2. It is important to ensure that these technologies in industry
are in good condition and proper working order.

2. Exhaust System Maintains

Vehicles with gasoline powered engines should be fitted with catalytic converters on the
exhaust pipe to reduce the exhaust gas emissions.

3. Road construction and public transportation

Government should construct enough widen road and improve public transportation
systems. They should take steps to start zero emission public transport like train, bus.
The management should keep the road net and clean. People should use public
transportation and zero emission vehicles.

4. Clean energy resources and Coal based power industry

Government should encourage and provide grants or loan to use clean energy resources
like solar, wind and geothermal. People should also emphasis to use this source of energy.

5. Dustbin, reduce and recycle

Enough dustbin should be made besides every road and public places. All should use
dustbin for items that are not usable and should reuse and recycle if possible.
6. Ban reconditioned and unregistered vehicles

Reconditions and unregistered vehicles should be banned. The number of approved

vehicles should not be exceed than capacity.

7. Modern pollution control technology

New power plants should use good pollution control technologies when they will design
the industry. For instances, new coal-fired power plants can capture up to 98% SO2 and
90% of NO2 emissions relative to uncontrolled levels.
8. Give priority to all towns
Extra pressure on Dhaka and Chittagong city should come down. Some industries and
important organizations should shift in different cities. Various city and towns also should
get priority with new plans.

9. Rules and regulations

Environmental law should be strictly maintained and environment-friendly rules should

be taken, maintained and developed.

10. Raising awareness

Since most of the Bangladeshi are not properly educated, awareness creation is the vital
factor. It will make people to realize and understand the causes of air pollution and its
effects as well as the personal responsibility to control it. So, government and various
organizations should speak up against air pollution. In the same time awareness program
should operate in everywhere that should be continue.

11. Grant program

Grant program should start to encourage environmental researchers and scientist for their
environmental related work.

River pollution
Water covers 70% (over two thirds) of the earth and it is source of life. About 97% of total
water, is stored in ocean which is not fit for human consumption. The rest of the water (3%) is
taken by land like rivers, lakes and under-ground aquifers. Bangladesh is largely a flat delta
flown over by many rivers. In 11th century, Bangladesh had 1400 to 1500 rivers but at present no
more than 230 to 310 rivers are existent out of which about 25 rivers are going to die. In 1972,
the river route was 24140 km that has been reduced to 3800 km. The rivers of Bangladesh is
being polluted tremendously and in worsen victim of pollution. The main causes of river
pollution are: reduction of flows (97% of the rivers in dry season), silt deposition (killed 187
rivers, has been increased in 574 rivers), river erosion, unplanned industrialization, using open
latrines, wash clothes, cows and goats bathe in the river, through untreated wastes especially
from industries (11% rivers in Bangladesh are polluted by industry wastes), hospitals and
household into the rivers, oil spills of different kind water vessel, rotting jute, agrochemicals use
in agriculture land etc. National geography states that In developing countries, 70 percent of
industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters, polluting the useable water supply. On
average, 22 million tons of fertilizers and chemicals are used each year. River pollution is
increasing day after day. The major polluted rivers in Bangladesh are: Buriganga, Karnaphulee,
Sangu, Bhairab, Pashur, Rupsha, Nabaganga, Mathavanga, Moyur, Kopotakkya, Shitalakkya,
Turag, Baloo, Bongshee, Kaleeganga, Meghna, Brahmaputra, Jamuna, Dhaleshwaree, Tista,
Padma, Karatoa, Kushiyara, Kirtankhola. River pollution causes fish, birds, mammals including
human beings and fauna killing; river dying, vulnerable-health society with more diseases (for
example, skin disease, jaundice, diarrhea, kidney damage, fever etc.) and mortality. It has
significant negative effect on water, soil and air. The floating dead fishes, colored water, acrid
smell from river are common sign of river pollution. Rivers are lifeline and we must protect out


1) Government should take necessary steps internationally to get righteous water of

Bangladeshi rivers.
2) Industries should installation of Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP). Industries require well-
designed treatment and water cooling system, and should maintain quality waste
treatment protocols to eliminate toxic contaminants.
3) The towns and cities should have advanced sewage treatment plants that clean up the
4) Farmers should give up chemicals and pesticide in farming and should adopt with organic
method. They can use integrated pest management (IPM) techniques such as biological
pest control.
5) Drainage and sewerage systems should be improved and polluted water shouldnt mix
with river water. Avoid putting toxic substances down the drain.
6) Environment protection policies such as Clean Water Acts should apply to all significant
waters including rivers. Rubbish even a bit of waste paper should not be thrown into
riverside or water bodies.
7) Slum and Latrine besides rivers should be drawn away.
8) People shouldnt rotting jute into river water.
9) Engine of boat and ships should keep well-tuned to prevent fuel and oil leaks. Try to start
environmentally friendly boats and ships clean marina.
10) Media, institutions, online can be used as public awareness.
11) Introduce environmentally friendly technology and products.
12) Avoid plastic bags.