Dhaka, Bangladesh
Most motor vehicles emit black smoke

Most motor vehicles emit black smoke

Dhaka's environs invaded from many fronts

News Report: Halt them all is a binding order now issued by a court for government authorities to stop environment-polluting superannuated motor vehicles from running in Dhaka's streets. The ban on the life-expired and unfit buses, minibuses, trucks and other automotives is part of a package prescription for healing the environmental and hygienic health of the capital, Dhaka, which comes at a time when its air quality and living conditions are being rated by international agencies as among the worst. In a further step, a bench of the High Court Monday also summoned the top executive of the environment department to explain why the designated remedial measures couldn't be taken despite a foreign-aided project in place. The court of Justice FRM Nazmul Ahasan and Justice KM Kamrul Kader ordered the authorities to seize the vehicles emitting black smoke. Under its order the government also has to fix the economic life of different cars or vehicles as per section 36 of the Road Transport Act 2018 and restrict the plying of those vehicles which have no economic life to run on roads in the capital. In an earlier submission during a court hearing, BRTA lawyer Barrister Moyeen Firozee had submitted a Bangladesh Road Transport Authority or BRTA report stating that there are around 40,18,000 registered vehicles in the country and 14,42,860 of those run in Dhaka. Among the total, 458,369 were registered but did not have any fitness clearance across the country. Transport operations in the capital in particular, including outmoded buses-minibuses, untrained drivers and rash driving-resulting in fatal accidents-transport fitness and route certification, signaling, illegal toll and so, have been topics of discussion in myriad forums for long. Discussants point out that most passenger transports like buses and minibuses plying the city thoroughfares are outworn but painted like new outwardly to get fitness certificate and route permit. These vehicles spew black smoke into the air. Under a much-talked-about new transport law, crackdowns on ramshackle vehicles were launched but there were pauses, somehow. "How these wrinkled, skin-excoriated buses run in this city wherein all high-ups live remains a riddle," says architect and rights campaigner Mubasshar Hussein time and again. They mention numerous projects, panels and decisions to show a ready solution to Dhaka's transport system: immediately form the envisaged six companies of bus operators from private sector and the state-run one, BRTC. Chase out all the polluting old buses that are painted new but spew toxic black smoke into the air to cause common harm to all-rulers, regulators, transporters and the commoners alike. Pick the buses which have life from the private transport operators and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation or BRTC fleets and operate those under the long-planned route-franchise basis. Issuing a nine-point order of dos to cut air pollution in Dhaka, the High Court subpoenaed the director-general of the Department of Environment (DoE) to appear before it on February 2 to explain why this problem cannot be contained. The HC issued the order on a writ filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB). The bench also ordered the authorities to submit a progress report on compliance with the directives on March 1. Advocate Manzill Murshid stood for the petitioner while deputy attorney-general ABM Abdullah Al Mahmud Bashar represented the state and Sayeed Ahmed Reza for the two city corporations in Dhaka. Under directives the authorities should ensure the use of covers on trucks or other vehicles that transport sand or soil through the city. "At places where construction work is going on contractors should cover the works to prevent the spread of dust," the court order says, indicating lot many such works including those under major transport-infrastructure projects. As per its previous order, the HC ordered the authorities concerned to sprinkle water on streets that were left out. The government has been instructed to ensure complete road construction or excavation work or carpeting by complying with laws and rules. There were conducted drives to demolish brick kilns around that spew toxic smokes that affect the city's air and environment. But reports say many are still in operation. In this regard, the DoE was asked to shut down in next two months the rest of the illegal brick fields which are operating without licence. Appropriate steps should be taken to stop the burning of tyres and recycling of vehicles' batteries without approval from the DoE, the court said, as there have been reports that transport fuel is being produced by burning old tyres . As a further cleanup measure, the HC asked the authorities concerned to take steps to ensure that all the market owners or shopkeepers keep their garbage in bags and the city corporations remove those after the shops or markets are closed. "The court wanted to know how the DoE spent the Tk 300-crore budget of a World Bank project to conserve the environment, the role DoE played in improving the environment and how people are getting benefited from it," said the deputy attorney- general after the orders were passed. The HRPB filed the writ petition attaching a report published in different newspapers on January 21 last year on air pollution in Dhaka. Reports also have it that garbage littering roadsides and open urination at street corners and on open spaces under flyovers are contributors to environmental pollution. Scenes under the flyovers in the capital could be much seemly but for an alleged lack of care and unfinished post-project works, all agree but to no effect yet. Local people, pedestrians and analysts in different forums say public urination and the dumping of garbage on open spaces under the flyovers--the filth spilling over onto adjacent streets at some places-are a common sight. Local people complain that patches of the flyover areas and roadsides are sometimes washed by water passed by wayfarers to urgent nature's call. Urbanisation experts say this nuisance is created for insufficiency of public toilets in the capital city, where a huge influx of rural people continues in search of fortune. Witnesses say major portions of maximum spaces under flyovers are also filled with heaps of garbage dumped from under-flyover stores, and houses, which not only stains the looks of the neat and clean and well-maintained flyovers but also pollutes the environment.

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