Air pollution and health have been a major focus in Bangladesh in recent years. In Dhaka air quality monitoring since April 2002 has shown that concentrations of PM2.5 and PM10 represent problems. Particularly in the non-monsoon period the concentrations of both regularly exceed proposed standards. Whilst the monitoring programme has been spatially limited, and a more extensive programme is needed before the extent of the problem can be defined, the need for an action plan to protect human health from air pollution is already recognised.
The central areas of Bangladesh cities are very heavily trafficked, with persistent traffic jams during the day. In Chittagong, for example, the combination of a hilly geography, the stop-start mode of congested traffic, the old age of the significant truck fraction of total traffic, and the heavy loads carried by most trucks causes incredibly large emissions of black diesel smoke. Transport between dispersed industrial areas also means a considerable kilometreage subject to these large emissions. At the opposite end of the motor vehicle fleet, are auto-rickshaws. Whilst a large number in Dhaka and Chittagong have been converted to compressed natural gas (CNG) and are quite clean, the remainder in these two cities and the large part of the fleet elsewhere in Bangladesh, represent a considerable pollution source. Populations are exposed to very high pollution concentrations in these areas.
Vehicular traffic is not the only issue. Large and often uncontrolled industries, such as steel mills and cement factories can have impact, especially when located within residential and commercial areas. A smaller industry with potentially large impact is the brick kiln sector, these being relatively small but very numerous within limited areas, numbers running well into the hundreds. Simple computer modelling evaluations suggest their footprint of impact can cover many kilometres.
The World Bank has concluded that much greater technical assistance is needed to address the problems faced in Dhaka, and is funding a follow up and expansion to the previous AQMP, aimed at technical support for emission reduction entitled Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (CASE). The BAPMAN project will air to supply and train for an encompassing air quality management system and provide for air quality and health assessment and projection capabilities, fits as a close complement to the new initiative, enabling air quality management which encompasses and goes beyond the focus areas of the World Bank project.