Where Does Bangladesh and Dhaka’s Air Pollution Come From?

Bangladesh’s air pollution levels reached an average of 86 micrograms in 2019. That means Dhaka, Bangladesh’s pollution levels are almost 9 times the WHO safe limit.

With such high pollution levels, many may wonder where Dhaka and Bangladesh’s pollution actually comes from.

Learn more: Overview of Bangladesh & Dhaka Air Quality »

The Three Main Sources of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s Air Pollution

Almost 85% of Dhaka’s air pollution comes from just three sources. These are brick kilns, surface dust and sand, and vehicle emissions.

Sources of air pollution in Dhaka Bangladesh

Data shows that the remaining 15% is made up of lead, biomass burning and sea salt.

Let’s look at the top 3 of these pollution sources a little more closely.

Traditional Brick Kilns – Dhaka, Bangladesh

Brick kiln air pollution source in Dhaka Bangladesh poor air quality

There are approximately 2,000 traditional brick kilns in and around Dhaka and about 5,200 more spread all around the country. These brick kilns burn coal to create bricks for Bangladesh’s booming construction industry. The burning process releases PM2.5 and other pollutants into the surrounding environment. They are large contributors to air pollution in Dhaka mainly due to their inefficient design.

Road dust sand in Dhaka Bangladesh PM2.5 and PM10 pollution

Surface Dust in Dhaka, Bangladesh

As a river delta, the majority of Bangladesh’s land mass is made of sediment and/or sand. This becomes a source of pollution because it’s easy to get kicked up into the air. Extensive unplanned residential development and large projects to build bridges, highways and mass rapid transit create large amounts of resuspended dust.

Dhaka Bangladesh air pollution PM2.5 air quality

Vehicle Emissions in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka bus and car vehicle emissions creating poor air quality in Bangladesh

Between 2010 and 2018 the number of vehicles on Dhaka roads increased by 68% and the prevalence of certain types of vehicles (trucks, jeeps, minivans etc.) more than doubled. Due to stricter government regulations, PM2.5 from vehicles makes up a smaller portion of overall PM2.5 than it did in the 90s. However, they still contribute about 10% of Dhaka’s PM2.5, with diesel busses, trucks, jeeps and minivans being the worst emitters.

But This Data Is From 2014?!

Since 2014, Bangladesh has seen an increase in construction. There have also been programs to reduce pollution from brick kilns. This means that brick kilns may now contribute less to Dhaka’s air pollution than previously, and sources such as vehicle emissions, dust and construction may be bigger contributors.

Bottom Line: Bangladesh’s Air Pollution Sources

Data shows that in 2014, the majority of Dhaka’s air pollution came from brick kilns, followed by dust and vehicle emissions. In recent years, a program to upgrade traditional brick kiln technology means construction and vehicle emissions may now be bigger contributors.

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