Jail time and fines for both public and private sector entities that breach the law, a cross-sectorial approach to air quality management, and the right of the government to declare an area a “non-attainment” or “special control” should the need arise: these are some highlights of a new draft bill being considered by the Bangladesh Parliament.
Drafted by the Department of Environment (DoE) and the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association (BELA), the Clean Air Bill sets a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or fine or both for violating the law governing air pollution, and doesn’t spare public sector leaders, making heads of government agencies liable for punishment if their organization commits an offence.
The bill also proposes that the DoE prepare a National Air Quality Management Plan within a year of the law coming into effect, with a 29-member advisory council of representatives from different ministries and departments overseeing and making recommendations to implement this plan.
Significant pollution sources in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, include transport, diesel power generators and brick kilns. In winter, meteorological conditions cause pollution concentrations to persistently remain above the Bangladesh National Ambient Air Quality Standard (BNAAQS).
The importance of a cross-sectorial, inter-agency approach to improving air quality was demonstrated as recently as December last year, when amendments to existing law made it easier to obtain brick kiln production licences in local and agricultural lands and wetlands, as long as applicants could keep pollution within acceptable levels; but environment department officials said they did not have sufficient manpower and technology to properly monitor the kilns.
Capacity is an issue raised by the DoE and BELA also in the context of implementing the draft bill, particularly its provisions for the government to strengthen scientific and technical research on air pollution prevention and control, and promote advance and suitable technologies to prevent and control air pollution.
“The DoE must have skilled manpower and more fund to implement the proposed act,” BELA Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan told Greenwatch.
Highlights from the draft Bill, according to the Dhaka Times, include:
• The Department of Environment to prepare a National Air Quality Management Plan within one year of the law coming into effect.
• The government may declare an area as “critical” if air quality deteriorates there or if it needs specific attention to deal with the situation.
• Putting together a 29-member advisory council with representatives from different ministries and departments to oversee and make recommendations to implement the National Air Quality Management Plan.
• A maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or fine or both as the punishments for violating the law.
• If an offence is committed by any government agency, its head will be considered guilty of the violating the law, and liable to face punishment accordingly.
According to the latest figures published by the World Health Organization, over 82,000 deaths in Bangladesh can be attributed to diseases caused by both indoor and outdoor air pollution. The country’s current five-year plan (2016 – 2020), commits the government to reducing air pollution to zero by 2020.
Read Dhaka Times article: Draft clean air act presented for immediate approval
Further reading from the World Bank: Enhancing opportunities for clean and resilient growth in urban Bangladesh
Banner photo by ওসমানগনী/CC BY-SA 4.0.