At last the ‘Air Pollution (Control) Rules, 2022’ has been formulated in Bangladesh, keeping the provision of two years’ imprisonment and Tk 2 lakh fine for emitting harmful substances into the air.
The Rules were formulated as per Section 20 of the ‘Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995’. Signed by Dr Farhina Ahmed, Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the gazette of the Rules has recently been published.
The ministry prepared the draft of the ‘Air Pollution (Control Rules), 2022’ with the objective of preventing, controlling and reducing air pollution to protect the environment and public health in the country.
The ‘Air Pollution (Control) Rules, 2022’ was formulated keeping most of the points presented by the Department of Environment (DoE), said Ziaul Haque, a director of the DoE.
Talking to Bangladesh Post on Friday (September 2), the DoE director said that the Rules cover various issues for controlling air pollution and prevent the sources of pollution. “Since the Air Pollution (Control) Rules, 2022 have been formulated and it came into effect through a gazette notification, we as well as the Department of Environment (DoE) will use the Rules to control air pollution in the country,” said Ziaul Haque.
Although the Air Pollution (Control) Rules, 2022 was formulated as per the draft presented by the DoE, the department earlier had placed a draft of ‘Clean Air Act’ to the ministry after the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) and Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (BUET) prepared the draft.
The ministry had adopted the draft of ‘Clean Air Bill, 2019’ in a bid to enact a separate law on air pollution issue, but the government moved away from the position after the draft law had been gathering dust for over three years.
Later, the government moved forward to formulate the ‘Air Pollution (Control) Rules’ instead of law although the environmentalists and experts on public health had wanted specific law on the air pollution issue to check the menace.
After formulation of the Rules, some of them argue that a separate law would have been better. However, there is Rules now. It will play positive role in controlling air pollution.
Prof Dr Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, head of environmental science department of Stamford University and chairman of Centre for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS) and Muhammad Anowarul Hoque, member secretary of Bangladesh Nature Conservation Alliance (BNCA) said that the DoE and other bodies concerned of the government should play a more active role in air pollution control using the newly formulated Rules.
BELA prepared the draft law ‘Clean Air Bill’ following DoE’s request. The draft law was prepared in order to improve the air quality in the country, especially in Dhaka city and its surrounding areas.
The Department of Environment (DoE) accepted the draft of the ‘Clean Air Act’ and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change uploaded the draft on its website for public opinion.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of BELA said that the draft of the ‘Clean Air Act’ was prepared after a long-time effort. Although the Air Pollution (Control) Rules, 2022 cover some important issues, in many cases the Rules don’t actually function as the law. Separate law has different importance and requirements.
According to the Air Pollution (Control) Rules-2022, any person or organisation will get two years’ imprisonment and Tk 2 lakh fine on charge of emitting harmful substances into the air.
As per the Rules, the DoE will formulate a National Air Quality Management Plan, which would be prepared considering the existing sources, socio-economic conditions, topographical features, meteorological seasonal variations, and other important parameters that influence the air quality of a region.
A 27-member high level National Executive Council (NEC) on air pollution control would be formed by secretary-level government officials from the relevant ministries, government institutions and public university. The cabinet secretary and additional secretary (pollution control) of the ministry will lead the council as president and member secretary respectively.
The committee will be empowered to oversee, advise and recommend the other bodies concerned to control air pollution and to implement the plan. This committee will also oversee the progress and effectiveness of the air quality management strategies/activities, and the air quality plan.
As per the Rules, the Department of Environment (DoE) can take steps against industries and activities which are extremely harmful to the environment and public health. The Rules direct the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC), Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) and other authorities concerned to provide the necessary support to DoE in this regard.
The role of the local government institutions has also been included in the Rules. The DoE will provide technical support and training to the local government institutions for management of air quality standard and control of air pollution.
According to the ‘Air Pollution (Control) Rules, 2022’, the DoE DG will declare a place ‘Degraded Air Shed’ if the place continuously shows its air quality over permissible limits. The DoE will prepare a time-based Air Quality Improvement Plan in consultation with the local stakeholders to improve the air quality of the ‘Degraded Air Shed’.
The DoE DG and any other assigned official can publish a list of events or activities that would be considered detrimental to the environment, health, society and economy of a place. The DoE will issue directives to control the activities.
According to the Rules, the government organisations involved with the construction activities, especially the local government organisations, are also directed to oblige by the norms of air quality management around the sites of construction/repairing/rebuilding.
Conferring awards to individuals and establishments that help in reining in air pollution by their actions were included in the Rules.
Prof Dr Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder said the air has become toxic for citizens, especially city dwellers, in Bangladesh. If air pollution continues like this, a major catastrophe may come down in the country. Strong measures and several steps as per the newly formulated Rules need to be taken to prevent air pollution, he added.
Muhammad Anowarul Hoque of BNCA told Bangladesh Post that air pollution levels in Dhaka and some other cities and towns in the country exceed both national and global standards. The air quality must be controlled even through enforcing strict legal action. Collective efforts are needed to curb it. “We believe that the government will again move forward to enact a separate law. However, we welcome the Rules,” he added.
Bangladesh has been suffering from the presence of a high level of particulate matter (PM) in its air for about three decades.
According to the air quality monitoring by the DoE, the air in all of the divisional and commercial cities in Bangladesh is polluted with very great concentrations of PM2.5 (PM with aerodynamic diameters equal or less than 2.5 micrometres), especially in the dry season from November to April when the concentrations of PM2.5 rise as much as six to seven fold of the guideline value set by the World Health Organization.
Dhaka and its neighbouring cities-- Narayanganj and Gazipur-- are the most polluted cities in the country.
The air pollution in the country contributed to a reduction of nearly seven years in the average life expectancy. Thousands of people die every year in the country due to exposure to both ambient and indoor air pollution as well as air pollution-related diseases.
The major sources of air pollution in Dhaka and other parts of the country are- uncontrolled discharge of dust from construction projects, black smoke emission from vehicles and brick kilns, uncontrolled road digging, renovation work, small and large industrial plants, incineration of garbage. The lack of central management system and lack of coordination among government agencies are also responsible for the air pollution.