Air pollution in Bangladesh claims 15,000 lives each year and costs the country millions of dollars, pollution and environment minister Shahjahan Siraj said Tuesday.
"The most vulnerable group to air pollution, including lead pollution in Dhaka city, is children," Siraj told a meeting in Dhaka.
Earlier this year the World Bank said Bangladesh could avoid 15,000 deaths and save between 200 and 800 million dollars a year if air pollution in four major cities -- Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi and Khulna -- was reduced to acceptable limits.
The level of lead in the air in Dhaka is estimated at 465 nanograms per cubic metre, one of the highest in the world, while the amount of suspended particulate matter is four times the permissible level, according to government figures.
Siraj admitted that lead levels among Bangladeshi children continued to be higher than 10 micrograms per 100 ml of blood limit recommended by World Health Organisation, despite the recent introduction of unleaded petrol.
Energy Minister Mosharraf Hossain told the meeting that the new government, which came to power after the October 1 general election, has plans to convert all public and private vehicles which use petrol into CNG-driven (Compressed Natural Gas) ones within in next two years.
During this period a ban will be imposed on the import of non-CNG vehicles, Hossain told the seminar organised by the France-Bangladesh association.
In July, a Bangladeshi company launched a project to introduce a fleet of 60,000 new environment-friendly three-wheel CNG taxis in Dhaka and phase out thousands of old three-wheelers, which use a mixture of petrol and oil and are blamed for much of the pollution in the city.
The World Bank is providing technical assistance to Bangladesh and other countries to reduce lead pollution -- DHAKA, (AFP)