Addressing Air Pollution in Dhaka

Air pollution in Dhaka is one of the most concerning issue that is demanding an immediate policy intervention.The economic cost of air pollution is very high as it significantly reduces efficiency, raises healthcare costs, and imposes a burden on social systems which affects the total economic output and GDP growth.Air pollution is a significant threat to all of us including public health,also the environment and ecosystems.Dealing with air pollution is mandatory and important for achieving many long-term sustainability goals and ensuring that our future generations inherit the country with a stable climate and healthy ecosystem.Dhaka metropolitan area is the most densely populated area of Bangladesh.It now has dangerous levels of air pollution, primarily caused by urbanization, industrialisation and forms of vehicular emissions. The city’s air quality index keeps crossing the acceptable limits and contributes to a various range of health issues such as cardiovascular problems, respiratory diseases and other severe negative health effects. There is a reduction in life expectancy found caused by air pollution.

The Air Quality Life Index study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago revealed that the people of Bangladesh are losing 6.8 years of life expectancy due to the air pollution and other environmental factors. As half of the world’s population currently live in cities, a figure expected to reach 70 percent by 2050, Bangladeshi cities, especially Dhaka, grapple with air pollution from vehicular emissions, industrial activities, and extensive construction.Breathing in unhealthy substances has been causing illness such as lungs and heart diseases among the citizens.The most affected are often the people residing in densely populated urban areas who lack essential amenities.Improved air quality can have significant public health benefits by reducing these adverse effects and promoting longer, healthier lives.

Dhaka’s rapid urbanization exacerbates the air pollution issue, with insufficient infrastructure and basic services for its growing population. Both PM2.5 and PM10 were found in Dhaka’s air according to the State of Air Quality Report 2020 which play a role in causing respiratory issues and contributing to premature deaths. Many unethical construction work in Dhaka causes dust in air which is distracting to drivers and also some citizens may be unable to see things.Construction sites do not bother taking any precautions as there are barely any rules or policies being enforced and they are never punished for endangering the citizen’s lives like this.

To control human induced air pollution in Bangladesh, a strategy is needed to be implemented through various policies that establish specific limits on pollution levels for industrial activities.  It is critically important for us to identify the sources of emissions and pollution hotspots in Dhaka.

The Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act of 1995 was a great move in favour of environmental protection, creating the Department of Environment (DoE) with the authority to take action against entities causing pollution.Following this law, the Environmental Conservation Rules of 1997 was formulated.Some other policies that are currently active include the National Environmental Policy, 2018, Brick Manufacturing and Brick Kiln Establishment (Control) Act, 2013 (amended in 2021). Certain sections of the Road Transport Act, 2018 also control motor vehicle emissions.The revelation of 6.8 years life loss in Bangladesh serves as a wakeup call for everyone.The underlying causes of air pollution in Dhaka include surface dust and traditional brick kilns in and around Dhaka which are large contributors to air pollution because of their inefficient design.Another main cause of increasing air pollution is vehicle emissions.Between 2010 and 2018 the number of vehicles on Dhaka roads increased by 68% and the prevalence of certain types of vehicles (trucks, jeeps, minivans etc.) more than doubled (Williams,2020). Many measures can be taken to reduce industrial emissions such as investing in renewable energy or energy efficiency and implying policies on efficient resource use.

Many countries and organizations have increasingly begun efforts to harmonize air quality policy along with climate action planning.Our neighbor country India has introduced National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to improve their air quality in major cities which includes various action plans, public awareness campaigns, and efforts to protect the air quality. They’ve noticed a significant positive change recently.Canada has recently enacted a national program called the Canadian Air Quality Management System (AQMS) that includes five main regulatory mechanisms- the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS), Base Level Industrial Emission Requirements (BLIERs) (emissions controls and technology), management of local air quality through the management of Local Air Zones, management of regional air quality through the management of Regional Airsheds and collaboration to reduce mobile source emissions.

Though there are a few active policies, protective regulatory policies are required for this issue. A protective regulatory policy is intended to protect the public at large from the negative effects of private activity, such as tainted food, air pollution, unsafe consumer products, or fraudulent business transactions.(Birkland,T.A.2019).By implementing a combination of short-term interventions and long-term strategies, the aim is to significantly reduce air pollution levels, protect public health, and foster sustainable urban development.According to a study published in April 2022, in Science Advances estimated there were 24,000 premature deaths in Dhaka between 2005 and 2018 due to air pollution.

The “Clean air act” law is still sitting idle. Years have passed since the draft Clean Air Act of 2019 was completed, but it has still not turned into a law.if the draft gets passed, air pollution will become much easier to tackle.By passing a protective regulatory policy it is possible to bring significant positive changes in the air pollution of Dhaka.

While planning an action to tackle air pollution, I believe these key points are essential-

  • Emission Standards and Regulations:A strict emission standard must be set.It is critically important to identify the sources of emissions and pollution hotspots in Dhaka area.

  • Industrial Pollution Controls: Unethical construction sites must be checked and rules must be enforced upon them.

  • Waste management policies:Rules are necessary against open burning of solid waste that is closely linked to air pollution.

  • Air quality monitoring:Essential information and real time data can be acquired by air quality monitoring.

  • Awareness programs:Awareness programs in educational institutions and rural areas can play a huge role as informed citizens are more likely to support the control measuring policies.It can encourage behavioral changes to reduce individual contributions that lead to air pollution.


Birkland,T.A.(2019).An introduction to the policy process:Theories,concepts and models of 

public policy making.Fifth edition. Routledge. Chapter 7

Hasnat, M.A.(2022,June 16).World’s worst air pollution slashes 7 years off life expectancy in 

Bangladesh. Mongabay.

Khatun,F.(2022,Jan 31).Aren’t we all entitled to cleaner air? The Daily Star.

Williams,A.(2020,Nov 26).Where Does Bangladesh and Dhaka’s Air Pollution Come From? 

Smart air filters.