Air pollution is responsible for about 20 percent of the total premature deaths in Bangladesh, said the World Bank in a report on Tuesday, urging immediate actions to curb air pollution in the country.
Dhaka is one of 9 South Asian cities with the worst air pollution. A new World Bank report shows that there are economically feasible, cost-effective solutions to achieve clean air in the region, but this requires countries to coordinate policies and investments.
The development came in a new World Bank report titled “Striving for Clean Air: Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia” which was disclosed in Dhaka.
Concentrations of fine particulate matter such as soot and small dust (PM2.5) in some of the South Asian region’s most densely populated and poor areas are up to 20 times higher than WHO standard (5 µg/mᶾ), it added.
In South Asia, it causes an estimated 2 million premature deaths each year and incurs significant economic costs.
Exposure to such extreme air pollution has impacts ranging from stunting and reduced cognitive development in children, to respiratory infections and chronic and debilitating diseases. This drives up healthcare costs, lowers a country’s productive capacity, and leads to lost days worked, said the global lender in the report.
“Air pollution creates a serious threat to public health and has major consequences on economic growth,” said Abdoulaye Seck, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan.
The report identifies six major airsheds in South Asia where spatial interdependence in air quality is high.
Recognizing the transboundary nature of air pollution, four South Asian nations—Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan—for the first time joined together to draw up the Kathmandu Roadmap for improving air quality in the Indo-Gangetic Plain and Himalayan Foothills, it added.
“Air pollution is not limited to a city, state, or national boundaries – it is transboundary in nature,” said Cecile Fruman, World Bank Director for Regional Integration for South Asia.
The most cost-effective scenario, which calls for full coordination between airsheds, would cut the average exposure of PM2.5 in South Asia to 30 µg/m³ at a cost of $278 million per µg/mᶾ of reduced exposure, and save more than 750,000 lives annually.
The report offered a three-phased roadmap to end the air pollution that included –monitoring of air pollution beyond the big cities, sharing data with the public, creating or strengthening credible scientific institutes that analyze airsheds, and taking a whole-of-government approach.
During this second phase, major progress can be made in reducing air pollution from agriculture, solid waste management, cookstoves, brick kilns, and other small firms. At the same time, airshed-wide standards can be introduced.
Enable private-sector solutions, to address distributional impacts, and to exploit synergies with climate change policies. In this phase trading of emission permits can also be introduced to optimize abatement across jurisdictions and firms, it added.