In Dhaka city, people spend an average of Tk4,000 annually on diagnosing and treating symptoms associated with air pollution, according to a study by the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
The figure is almost twice the government's per-person health budget allocation of Tk2,228 in the current fiscal year.
The study revealed that air pollution increases the risk of various health conditions, including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases such as asthma. Common symptoms of these conditions include coughing, difficulty breathing, a runny nose, a sore throat, chest pain, and eye irritation.
Syed Yusuf Saadat, a research fellow at the think tank, presented the findings of the study, "Reducing Pollution for Greening Cities", at a CPD-organised dialogue at Brac Center in Dhaka on Wednesday.
CPD Executive Director Fahmida Khatun moderated the dialogue, with speakers being Habibun Nahar, deputy minister for the environment, forest, and climate change, and Matt Cannell, acting British high commissioner in Dhaka.
The CPD conducted research by surveying 500 households in the capital city to create a database reflecting people's opinions on pollution.
Children under five years and elderly people above 65 years are considered age groups vulnerable to air pollution, and on average, 20% of sick family members belong to these vulnerable age groups, said Yusuf Saadat.
In total, individuals in Dhaka city took 2,117 days off from work and school in the last year due to the symptoms attributed to air pollution, he added.
The research paper said 76% of respondents thought that air pollution in Dhaka city had become much worse in the last 2–3 years.
In response to the question of why air pollution increases, 77% believed vehicular emissions were the main reason, with construction sites contributing 10%, brick kilns 4%, and waste burning responsible for 9%."
The think tank has urged that the government pass a regulation that requires the phasing out of all fixed chimney brick kilns by 31 December 2028. Besides, the government should stop approving any new coal-based power plants and gradually decommission and phase out all existing coal-based plants, including the Rampal power plant near the Sundarbans, which is apprehended to destroy the ecosystem.
The CPD also raised concerns about using single-use plastics, which is increasing severely, and people are getting used to it. The think tank found that single-use plastics are the main reason for water pollution.
In the study paper, at least 74% of respondents knew that burning plastic waste leads to air pollution. As many as 67% said that plastic waste had blocked sewage systems, causing urban flooding. No fewer than 62% said that plastic led to water pollution.
At least 58% knew that burning plastic waste leads to heart illness and respiratory problems and affects the nervous system.
Yusuf Saadat said at least 58% knew that burning plastic wastes lead to heart illness, and respiratory problems, and affects the nervous system. Some 52% respondents seem that chemicals from food containers can leak out and enter the human bloodstream.
Speakers said in the event that pollution can be reduced with the collaboration of all participants. But individual effort is not enough to prevent the pollution.
Deputy Minister Habibun Nahar said, "We have many policies to eliminate pollution. But the policies are not working due to a lack of proper implementation.
"We have to be aware of our respective places to prevent pollution. The use of polluting products should be reduced."
The deputy minister said instead of holding a roundtable in an AC room, "we should go to the common people and make them aware."
Matt Cannell said that to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, "we are investing in Bangladesh."