Shafia Begum, 60, have been living in Paschim Jhauchar village on the edge of the Tannery Industrial Estate in Hemaetpur of Savar for 40 years. Though, she faced no problems earlier, her family members were suffering from various diseases during the last two years.
Shafia Begum told The Business Standard, "I could not sleep due to itching. After the tannery was shifted there, my son and grandchildren are suffering from itching. Though taking medicine could alleviate the problem, the itching returns after a few days of stopping taking medicine. Not only us, people in every family in the area are suffering from skin diseases and asthma."
Shukkur Ali, a neighbour of Shafia Begum, said, "We have been living in the area for a long time, but never experienced such situation. The tin roofs on the houses turned red and fell apart. You can guess our physical condition from the situation of the tin roofs. The tannery is causing this problem."
Doctors opined that untreated solid tannery waste is spreading in the water in that area. That is causing skin diseases among the locals. The toxic chemicals from the tannery also polluted the air and causes the respiratory diseases.
The residents of Jhauchar buy medicines from the local drug stores. Abdullah, proprietor of one such store - Bismillah Pharmacy - said, medicines for skin diseases and asthma were in high demand in that area.
The locals, along with the tannery workers mostly buy medicines for skin diseases.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela) and Bangladesh Lung Foundation organised a camp there in March this year to observe the tannery's harmful effects on the locals. At that time, they examined the health of hundreds of people from Harindhar and Hemaetpur near the Tannery Industrial Estate in Savar.
Resident doctor of National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases Dr Sadia Sultana participated in the camp. She told business standard that, pollution created by the tannery mostly causes skin and respiratory diseases. Most of the people who came to the medical camp were suffering from skin diseases. Doctors observed mostly scabies and fungal infections among people there. More than 70 percent of the people in the community were suffering from skin diseases.
Like the residents of Jhauchar, people in the capital too are suffering due to water air pollutions. Increased amount of dust particles is worsening the situation.
According to the "State of Global Air 2019" report by the US-based organisation Health Effects Institute, 1.23 lakh people died in Bangladesh in 2017 due to air pollution.
Specialists say that the unplanned development works, haphazardly strewn sands and other construction materials, littering on streets, and gas emitted from vehicles are polluting the air and increasing the diseases.
A leader of the Paribesh Bachao Andolan (save the environment movement) and preventive medicine specialist Dr Lenin Chowdhury said, air pollution, water and food pollution cause many deaths in Bangladesh.
"The quality of air pollution in Dhaka is deteriorating day by day. Now many types of harmful elements are found in Dhaka's air. These are causing many diseases including cancer. Children are at the greatest risk to be harmed by the pollution," ABDUS SALAM, CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR AT THE DHAKA UNIVERSITY.
People are suffering from kidney failure, gastric, and ulcer due to contaminated food. Asthma, respiratory diseases and allergy are increasing among people due to water pollution. Respiratory problems increase significantly during the winter.
Air pollution is also the responsible for lung cancer. Water pollution is causing typhoid, cholera and other diseases among people.
Dr Lenin Chowdhury said, "Our average lifespan has increased, and with that increased the average of number of diseases suffered by people."
Construction of the metro rail project in Dhaka is going on throughout the year, which is also contributing significantly in environment pollution. The environmentalists fear that the condition of the air in Dhaka will deteriorate during the dry seasons.
A recent report by the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the planning ministry said that people's health is in risk due to the metro rail project
The government report said, no effective measures were taken to control the sound pollution and dust particles in the project area. Huge amount of dust particles was coming out of the depot area of the metro rail project in Uttara. Using water in the area was not sufficient to control the dust.
Executive Director of Bela Syeda Rizwana Hasan said, the metro rail project is posing a threat to public health and there are not adequate measures to tackle the problem. This project is one of the main causes behind the recent dengue outbreak.
Children are at greatest risk
Pollution in the city is affecting the children severely. The multidimensional pollutions causing lack of hunger, chronic headache and insomnia among kids. Sound and air pollutions having long term effects on the children.
Poisonous lead, carbon monoxide, and sulphur dioxide are entering the children's body and causing pneumonia, lung problems.
Abdus Salam, professor at the Chemistry Department in the University of Dhaka, is researching on air pollution for 20 years. He told The Business Standard, "The quality of air pollution in Dhaka is deteriorating day by day. Now many types of harmful elements are found in Dhaka's air. These are causing many diseases including cancer. Children are at the greatest risk to be harmed by the pollution."
The Chemistry Department of the University of Dhaka examined the level of air pollution in 10 educational institutions in the capital. It found that the amount of harmful particles in the air in the classrooms and school compound is four to five times higher than the standard set by World Health Organization.
Examining 250 children aged between nine to 10, the researchers found that 16.8 percent of them were suffering from cough, six percent from asthma or breathing problem and 5.6 percent from migraine or headaches. Besides, 55 percent of the children, who previously had no history of breathing problem, could not breath normally.
Earlier, the urban lab of Bangladesh University conducted a research on students of six schools in the Farmgate area in Dhaka. According the results of that research, 25 percent those children's lungs were not functioning properly. Their lungs were working from 65 to 80 percent of their actual capacity.
Pollution Economic cost
According to the World Bank's report titled "Country Environmental Analysis 2018" urban environmental pollution is costing Bangladesh's economy significantly.
In 2015, the total annual number of deaths and disability adjusted life years attributable to air pollution, inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene, arsenic in drinking water, and occupational pollutants was 2.6 million. Nearly 80,000 of these affected people were in urban areas.
The economic cost of this mortality in terms of lost labour output is estimated at $1.40 billion in all the urban areas of Bangladesh, and $310 million in Dhaka alone.