Degraded Ecological Environment of Dhaka City and its Management



Environmental pollution has an impact on a number of areas which affect us all. It causes both opportunities and threats for the organization that pollutes environment and in turn be affected by the measures against pollution. So an organization while analyzing environmental forces of business should consider ecological environment specifically as it has significant impacts on economic activity. Based on above an attempt has been made here to find how economic activity pollutes the environment of Dhaka city and how pollution poses threat on the business.


Rapid and unplanned urbanization, commercial development, along with population pressure have made Dhaka an environmentally polluted city in the world. Concentration of suspended particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides; sulpher oxides, etc. often exceed the safety standards of Bangladesh. The surrounding river systems have become badly polluted due to chemical and microbial contamination by the industries situated on the banks of the major rivers and untreated sewerage discharge from large part of the city. The groundwater level of the city is also being affected with a fall of more than 0.75 meter per year. Many areas of the city are already experiencing higher noise level. Increasing incidences of respiratory infections, asthma, cardiac problems, auditory difficulties, emphysema, pneumonia, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal problems, skin diseases etc. especially in children, testify to the environmental degradation of Dhaka city.


History of Dhaka City


Dhaka carries a history since the 7th century A.D. to present times. The city actually faced a dramatic historical turn-up from its beginnings as a small city with few people, to the tremendously expanded demographic and topographic structure it is today with distinct spatial and demographic characteristics. The geographical location and administrative units of the city is given in figure 1.1.


According to available literature and documents, the present city once started with only 1 square mile area and then extended to 2 square mile in the 16th century with a population of over 3 thousand. From the 16th century till 1981, the total population increased from 3 thousand to over 2.8 million, with the area extended to 208 km2 (BBS, 2001). Historically, the development of Dhaka city started from the southern part, that is, the present “old town” (pre-Mughal period), then the extension continued toward the west and the north (Mughal and British period). During Pakistan period, the development of advanced primarily towards the north and it continued rapidly and in an unplanned way towards every side of the city. Figure 1.2 shows changing pattern of Dhaka City and its population and the following section provides a brief on city’s physical development at different stages of its growth.

Pre-Mughal Period (before 1608)


The history of the present Dhaka city before the 16th century is not much prominent but the available documents represent that some parts of the greater Dhaka was ruled by the Buddhist then the Hindus till around the 13th century. However, Muslims arrived Dhaka and the nearby areas after 1275. The Turks and the pathans ruled Dhaka till the arrival of the Mughals. At that time, present Dhaka city had and area of only 2 km2 with a small population as mentioned earlier.


Mughal period (1608- 1764)

The Mughals came to Dhaka in 1606 when Qutubuddin Kokah and Jahangir Kuli Khan were temporary governors under Emperor Jahangir, keeping their headquarters at Akbarnagar (Rajmahal). In 1608, Sheikh Alauddin was permanently appointed as governor of the province with the title of Islam Khan (Bangladesh District Gazetteers, Dhaka, 1975). Islam Khan made Dhaka the permanent capital of the province on 16 July 1610 and renamed it as Jahangir Nagar. Islam Khan did Road communication from Chawk Bazar to Babu Bazar and the expansion of the present “old town to Sadar Ghat from 1606 until his death in 1613. He also constructed a canal beside Tantibazar and Malitola to connect the Buriganga and Dolai Khal (BDG, 1993). However, most of the development and settlement of the city took place during the Mugal period (1608-1764). During his reign, the construction of a road from the Buriganga to Tongi(South-North, 22km) and Dolaikhal to Babupura (East-West) and set up of many industries and factories took place (GOB,1993). Dhaka was then called the “City of 62 Bazars (markets) and 53 Lanes”.

In comparison with commercial and industrial development during the Mughal period, road communication development was lagging behind. However, in 1717 the capital was again shifted from Dhaka to Rajamahal (Murshidabad), which resulted in a serious declination of demographic and urban structure of Dhaka city. The population of Dhaka city in the Mughal period was 0.9 million living within its 50km 2 area (DCC, 2004).


British Period (1764-1947)


At the beginning of the British period Dhaka experienced famines, floods, disease epidemics and loss of trade and business etc. that resulted in a dramatic decrease in population. The population of Dhaka fell to 0.2 million and the area to 8 km 2 in the 18th century due to the adverse situation (DCC, 2004). However, both population and area of Dhaka recovered and started to expand again with housing, transport, utility services especially due to development of health and educational facilities. The noticeable development in the educational sector included establishment of Dhaka College in 1835, Jagannath College in 1858, Eden College in 1880, and Teachers Training College in 1909 and the Dhaka University in 1921.

The people of Dhaka started using piped water supply and electricity in 1974 and 1878 respectively, which caused a great change in lifestyle of the city’s people. The Dhaka Municipality was established in 1864, when the development of the city advanced from the east to the eastern fringes of Gandaria and towards the west up to Nawabganj. Also, this period saw many changes and rearrangement in the residential patterns and development in Wari, Ramna and Purana Palton areas. Development of railway communication and road transport were also remarkable. Government administrative control was updated, forming two units located at Ramna and near Victoria Park. Then the declaration of capital in 1905 changed the population figure of Dhaka, though it lost administrative control again in 1911. However, the population of Dhaka at the end of British period was nearly 0.3 million within 64.7 km 2 of area (DCC, 2004).


Pakistan Period (1947-1971)


After partition of India in 1947, Dhaka was made the capital of the province of East Pakistan. The new capital then had to face tense situations like communal riots and political crisis over the state language issue that resulted in a substantial decrease of population growth of Dhaka in 1951. However, the rapid development of housing, factory/industry, business and government offices took place in Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Tejagaon, Ramna, Purana Palton, Segun Bagicha and some other adjoining areas during this period.Some of these areas were expended during this period and many

were recognized by Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT) for development after 1956.

The Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT) was transformed into Rajdhani Unnayan Kortripakhkha in 1987. The DIT showed a significant success in the development of Gulshan, Banani, Uttara and Baridhara Model Towns, and in improving the road transport system of Dhaka city. However, most of these model towns became congested due to new housing, commercial development and mixed land use practices. Dhaka actually faced many challenges during the Pakistan period, mostly in the early years, though it neither seriously affected its population growth nor development of different sectors, for example, housing, industry/factory and infrastructure. In 1974, the city population was over 2 millions.

Bangladesh Period (1971-onward)


Dhaka rearranged itself again as the capital city of Bangladesh after the liberation war in 1971. It accommodates all public and private factories and industries, and commercial establishments. The significant influx and natural growth of population after the liberation war made this one of the most populated cities in the world.

In the recent year, the model towns of Dhanmondi, Uttara, Gulshan, Banani and Baridhara became congested due to mixed and semi-planned development practices. Informal settlements (slums and squatters) were established in the central part of Dhaka. Nearly one-third of the total population of Dhaka basically reside in slums areas and support the city with cheap labour like rickshaw pulling, construction activities, working in workshops and factories, small business and trade, hawking and as household domestic help.Figure 1.3 shows the historical development and growth of Dhaka.

Most of the utility services were expanded or newly developed to support the vast number of city dwellers in last few decades. However, the core authorities of the city are still unable to fulfill the basic requirements like water supply and sanitation, solid waste management, power supply etc. Health and education sectors were also quite developed compared to other periods the initiatives of both the government and non-government organizations. However, the quality of these services may be questionable.


The major problem faced by Dhaka now is due to unplanned development. The city has lost its capacity to provide quality living standard to the city dwellers especially in terms of environmental and health requirements. Dhaka was a city of 2.8 million in 1981, which rapidly increased to 5.3 million in 2001 while expansion of city area was negligible i.e. area increases to 276 km2 from 208 km2 in the same period.


Cultures, Heritage and Beautification


Dhaka city has quite a few wonderful attractions and outstanding historical places such as the Lalbagh Fort, Ahsan Manzil Museum, Bahadur Shah Park, Curzon Hall, Baldha Garden, Ramna Green, Suhrawardy Uddyan, Botanical Garden, Dhaka zoo, Natioan Museum and several mosques, Lakes and water bodies. These are not only recreational sites, but also most of these stand as evidence of the bygone days and colorful history of Dhaka city, and Bangladesh as well.

The city has a wide reputation on the practices of cultural activities. People enjoy the celebration of cultural events such as the Pahela Baishak Carnival (Bengali New Year Photo 1.1) Ekushey February (21 February), now observed as World Mother Language Day, open air poetry sessions, street plays, musical performances, and numerous book fairs. Religious gatherings are also mentionable particularly Eid Festival, Durga Puja, Bishya Ejtema, and Christmas day.

Dhaka city was once known for its serenity, beautiful parks, clean roads and lush greenery, but the present condition is one of overcrowding, traffic congestion, excessive noise and dirt. The past twenty years have seen an explosion of growth and expansion in Dhaka city due to rural-urban migration, combined with unplanned city development, lack of adequate roads for the increased traffic and congestion caused by numerous high-rise buildings. Another issue of contention is the presence of huge billboards on every street corner and decorating the face of buildings, parks and sidewalks.


The program “Beautification of Dhaka City” was launched in 2004 ahead of the proposed SAARC Summit of 2005. This beautification work has been carried out under the Prime Minister’s Office with the help of the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC). The government has enlisted the services of 54 private and 17 public organizations to carry out works of beautification in various areas of the city. These 71 organizations and institutions have been allotted 105 different sections of roads and street intersections for beautification and maintenance of these activities until March 2008 (The New Nation, 2004). The organizations are undertaking the beautification work at their own costs without any financial assistance from DCC. The Dhaka Urban Transport Project (DUTP) and Dhaka Transport Coordination Board (DTCB), with the support of different organizations, have been given the responsibility to make the city roads beautiful (DOE, 2005). Results of their efforts can be seen along the Airport Road, Sangsad Bhaban and various important intersections and parks.


Beside plantation of trees and flowering shrubs, water fountains and sculptures have been constructed at various intersections/roads of the city, for instance, at Farmgate, on Airport Road, Bijoy Sarani, Zia Uddyan etc. Unpaved parts of roads, footpaths and medians were used for the plantation of decorative plants and shrubs to bring back the ‘feng-sui'(Chinese phrase-means making construction in harmony with nature). Also waste bins have been provided at almost every street corner to discourage the pedestrians from littering. So far, the beautification drive has made a positive impact on the people of Dhaka but there is skepticism regarding the long-term maintenance of these beautification activities. Other activities have also been undertaken for the betterment of the city and the city dwellers. Computerized/ synchronized traffic signals have been placed all over Dhaka City to streamline and facilitate smooth movement of traffic. Also roads have been set aside for non-motorized vehicles in order to minimize congestion.


The living condition in Dhaka city has improved considerably despite the high density of people. Both private and government organizations have to be given credit for their role in the beautification of the city. The past year has heralded a new look for Dhaka City, which is now more aesthetically agreeable and environmentally sound. More efforts, activities and basic awareness programs can convert Dhaka from an urban jungle to a garden city once again.

Objective and Methodology




Present concept of management is “managing the environment”. Ecological environment is a very influential force among the business environmental forces which has got attention now a day. The updated information on the environmental condition is important in the decision making process business and marketing efforts.


The aim of this study is to provide environmental assessment to the entrepreneurs about the present environmental condition of Dhaka which is the result of business activities and to take appropriate measures for pollution control in absence of which business activities may no longer be sustainable. This problem identification research needed information identification, analysis of secondary data and other requirements that supported assessment and preparation of report. The ultimate aim is to provide information about the marketing environment for improving the basis for decision-making in the handling of important/emerging environmental problems towards sustainability of business.



Dhaka the capital city of Bangladesh was selected for assessing two issues i e existing environmental condition and identifying its implications to business. The assessment of these issues was done on the basis of secondary data through exploratory process taking four research questions in mind stated in figure 1.4.

i.Research Questions(Figure 1.4): There are four consecutive questions answers to which to be found for reaching at the findings of this report with an integrated assessment manner.


ii.Flow chart  (Figure 1.5): Flowchart of this report includes a number of stages from planning and conceptual development to final presentation shown in figure 1.5.


Figure- 1.4. Research questions.



What is happening to the environment?

Why is it happening?

What can we do and what are we doing about it?

What will happen if we don’t act now?










Structure of the Report


This report has been prepared based on the above methodology and format, and is composed of five sections with a number of sub-sections. The sections of the report are as follows:

Chapter one: This chapter presents an overview of past and present Dhaka City with historical growth. It also presents summary of the methodology and structure of the report.


Chapter Two: Chapter two provides an overview of major environmental resources and socio-economic condition of Dhaka City. This chapter highlights the trend and development in different sectors related to the city environment. The existing environment management and legislative overview is also included in this chapter.


Chapter Three: This chapter includes the key environmental issues and their in-depth description highlighting the driving forces of the problems, impacts and responses of the relevant authority and society to the environmental condition. This chapter indicates the major gaps and offers options for better management and improvement of environment.


Chapter Four: This chapter presents the implications of those environmental issues on business and marketing efforts.


Chapter Five: Conclusion and recommendations provide possible immediate actions in the arenas of policy making and action to combat the situation towards sustainable business environment.


Bibliography:  In addition to the above-mentioned chapters, there is a bibliography in this report containing major sources of data (organization/reports/writer etc.).


Different stages of preparation of this report are as follows;


Stage 1 Planning and conceptual development Stakeholder identification

report structure and scope

Table of contentsStage 2Information assembly and organizationData sources, availability and indicators Literature search

Assessment, analysis and synthesis

Agency and specialist participationStage 3Chapter/section compilationDraft preparation review and revision, EditingStage 4Report consolidationChapter integration, Draft  printStage 5Report supervisionComments and suggestions from the guide, their incorporation and finalization.Stage 6Report submissionPresentation before the faculty and audience and clarification of different point rose.



Limitations of the Report


The main shortcoming of this report is the lack of field visit and collection of primary data. This report has been prepared based on secondary data and information collected from relevant organizations and published reports. Some of the key environmental issues were only supported with updated data. On the other hand, many of the relevant organizations and reports show the different figure of the same data for the same period e.g. solid waste generation, population etc. Therefore, some of the data are incorporated based on assumption. These may lead to certain limitations in the report. The following may be the limitations of the report:

  • Different organizations show the different figures for the same issues for the same period.


  • Sufficient updated data are not available for all priority issues.


  • The data that have been used in this report from different sources may have some inaccuracies. For example, data on air quality of Dhaka city is used from the record of Continuous Air Monitoring Station (CAMS) of Air Quality Management Project (AQMP) but this station may not have covered the whole city. Some of the data have been used from the Internet sources (website), which may not be very reliable.


  • The issues were prioritized based rather on perception than on any scientific method.


Environment and Social Situation


This section on environmental and social situation provides an overview of key environmental resources, social situation including poverty, health and nutrition, status and stresses on service providing sectors, and institutional capacity and compliance to environment rules and regulations.


Key Environmental Resources




Historically, the use of land for development of city started from the present old town and along the bank of Buriganga River. Later it expanded towards the north, and the flow of expansion was more or less continued in most of the regime though the remarkable growth was observed after the independence.

Dhaka City Corporation (DCC), the central nerve of the Dhaka Mega City, presently covers more than 25 percent of the total land area of mega city. The elevation of DCC area varies from 2 to 13 meters above the mean sea level (msl) while the most of the developed areas are at an elevation of 6 to 8 meters above the msl. The land area above 8 meters msl covers about 20 km2. The land ranging from 6 to 8 meters msl covers 75 km2 while 170 km2 of Dhaka is below 6 meters.


Land areas under different categories of use vary by sources. In 1991, out of 265 km2 of land area of the city agriculture occupied about 45% of land area while residential and water bodies occupied about 19% and 14% respectively (JICA and GOB, 1991). Before 1991, the figures were 46.8, 25.32 and 9.94% respectively within DCC area of about 208 km2(Ministry of land, 1982 and Dhaka Collectorate, 1989 in Human Settlement UNESCAP, 2004; BBS, 1991).

In fact, after the liberation war, the physical feature of the main city has been changed and covered by rapid development both by the government and private    sectors. These include development of commercial, industrial, educational, health, communication and residential sectors.

Box 2.1: Parks and Open Spaces

There are about 50 parks and open spaces in Dhaka city of which DCC owns 46 (New Age Metro, August 2, 2003). Some of the parks have been occupied by encroachers who have set up temporary markets, bus stops, slums etc in these places. Of the total land area the city has only an average of 14.5% open space (17% in north and central part and 12% in old town) left whereas any city requires 25% for fresh environment and to maintain a sustainable land ecosystem.


Source: The Daily Star, April 12, 2004


Presently, the city development including all the above sectors covers approximately 40 km from north to south and 14 km from the east to the west (DCC, 2004). Many areas of the eastern part of the city, being low lying support agricultural practices, which ultimately meet a major part of the regular vegetables demand of the city dwellers. Table 2.1 shows the land use distribution of Dhaka city before and after 1991.


Most of the government and non-government administrative headquarters, centers to control regional, national and international business and trade, industries, housing have been formally and informally established within the DCC area.



Air quality of Dhaka city has deplorably deteriorated during the last few years, though the situation has partially improved due to a few interventions. The air quality of Dhaka is still deteriorating due to such activities as growth of settlements, brickfields, motor vehicles etc. The old part of Dhaka is severely congested and crowded with industrial and commercial units and old and new residential buildings. Many industrial units are located in Hazaribagh tannery area to the eastern fringe of Gandaria and along the Buriganga River. Lack of sanitation and proper waste management facility result in regular emissions into the ambient air that reduce air quality of the area.

Tejgaon and Mahakhali industrial area have the same problem with the additional points of emission sources. Besides the industries, light motor vehicles, many heavy vehicles including buses, trucks, lorries etc. constantly run through the only internal road from the south to the north touching Maghbazar-Farmgate-Tejgaon-Mahakhali that cause the increase of air pollutants. However, the northeastern part (Cantonment-Gulshan-Baridhara) of Dhaka is literally better than other areas in terms of air quality.


Table 2.2 Air quality of central part of Dhaka city

Criteria Pollutants Oct/02 Nov/02 Dec/02 Jan/03 Feb/03 Mar/03 Apr/03 May/03
SO2(Sulfur dioxide): monthly 24-hour average 4.3 8.5 19.5 19.3 24.0 15.5 6.2 1.6
NOx(Nitrogen oxide): monthly 24-hour average DNA 134.9 107.0 121.3 89.3 63.3 23.3 20.0
CO(carbon monoxide): monthly 1-hour average 1.5 1.6 DNA 2.5 1.6 1.1 0.4 0.5
O3(Ozone): monthly 1-hour average 16.0 19. 0 22.9 28.9 57.4 57.9 29.9 20.1
Suspended particulate matter (SPM) PM10: monthly 24-hour average 131.0 161.0 252.0 271.0 244.0 202.0 104.0 97.0
Suspended particulate matter (SPM) PM2.5: monthly 24-hour average 90.0 138.0 192.0 196.0 151.0 88.0 46.0 36.0


Criteria Pollutants Jun/03 July/03 Aug/03 Sep/03 Oct/03 Nov/03 Dec/03 Jan/04
SO2(Sulfur dioxide): monthly 24-hour average 0.5 0.5 0.7 0.3 0.5 3.4 7.5 5.6
NOx(Nitrogen oxide): monthly 24-hour average 13.9 13.3 19.5 30.2 49.3 141.3 127.6 94.8
CO(carbon monoxide): monthly 1-hour average 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.6 1.0 2.0 1.8 1.4
O3(Ozone): monthly 1-hour average DNA DNA DNA DNA DNA 38.1 27.6 29.7
Suspended particulate matter (SPM) PM10: monthly 24-hour average 68.0 46.0 50.0 65.0 93.0 183.0 168.0 192.0
Suspended particulate matter (SPM) PM2.5: monthly 24-hour average 27.0 19.0 23.0 35.0 59.0 117.0 108.0 130.0

Source: Air Quality Management Project (AQMP), Department of Environment, 2004

Note:    PM10, PM2.5 concentration in micrograms per cubic meter

NOx, O3, SO2 concentration in ppb              CO concentration in ppm

DNA: Data Not Available

This may be due to lack of overcrowding of population and residences, better utility service and traffic management, sufficient open space etc. In terms of seasonal variation, Dhaka enjoys better outdoor air quality excluding the presence of suspended particulate matter in monsoon season. In dry season, both outdoor and indoor air quality of whole Dhaka still pose risks to human health. Many studies have been carried out at different times to represent the contemporary air quality (outdoor and indoor) of the main city, of which samples are given in Table 2.2.


However, the outdoor and indoor air of Dhaka city is still getting polluted with increased SPM all the year around from different source of activities. These include construction and reconstruction of roads and highways, residential and commercial buildings, brick kilns, biomass burning for domestic and commercial purposes, especially in informal settlements (slums and squatters) and food making process of mushrooming eateries and restaurants, top soil erosion from agricultural and development works etc. Table 2.3 and 2.4 show the SPM concentration of outdoors and indoor air of different are of Dhaka city.


It is to be mentioned here that the condition of carbon monoxide and lead in the air is much better now due to the recent government actions i.e. banning of two stroke three wheeler vehicles in 2003, banning of buses older than 20 years and trucks older than 25 years in 2002, introducing unleaded gasoline (1999) and compressed Natural Gas (CNG) using vehicles etc. It should also be noted that the emission of volatile organic compounds may be significant in Dhaka city due to the availability of sources like open municipal dumping ground and motor vehicles which would react with oxides of nitrogen and from Ozone at the ground level.


Table 2.3 SPM concentration (μg/m3) in the ambient air in different areas of Dhaka city at different years using high volume samplers


Date Farm gate Police box Agargaon Tejgaon Fire Service (Mirpur Road)
1998 397.65-2785.42 105.90-2485.3 497.1-535.7 180.7-751.9
1999 875.6.53.9 402.93-502.58 424.06-686.6 DNA

Source: Bangladesh Compendium of Environmental Statistics (BCES), 1997


Table 2.4 SPM concentration in the indoor air in different slums of Dhaka city at different times (2003)

Location Dilu Road Slum SPM(μg/m3) Rayer Bazar Slum SPM (μg/m3)
Kitchen 5092 4445
Kitchen 4545 10910
Kitchen 5253 4440
Kitchen 4040 18586

Source: WHO, 2002




The surface water area of Dhaka city is about 10-15% of the total land area. This includes four rivers, four major canals, four lakes and many small ponds. Dhaka is primarily surrounded by three rivers, the Buriganga on the south west, the Turag on the north-west and the Balu on the north-east. The Shitalakhaya river flowing by the south-east part of greater Dhaka is also included in the surrounding river system and significantly contributes to supply water through which Saidabad water treatment plant produced average 170 MLD in July, 2003 to October, 2003 (WASA, 2003).

There are more than 40 canals within the city area that could have remarkable contribution in drainage service. The whole system is not functioning properly due to encroachment of these canals and improper management and overload of sewage. However, all the canals flowing through different areas finally join the river system i.e. Segunbagicha- Jirani-Dholai Khal joins with the Balu and Buriganga, Ibrahimpur-Kallyanpur Khal joins with the Turag, Dhanmondi-Gulshan-Banani-Mahakhali-Begunbari Khal joins the Balu river. The major lakes are Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Ramna and Crescent.

The lakes and small ponds that are found scattered in different areas of the city support the informal settlement (slums and squatters) for the dwellers domestic purposes, especially for washing and bathing even though all of them are being polluted through disposal of sewage and waste by the lake side settlements. Groundwater is one of the most important resources being used as a major source of water supply to serve the needs of the city dwellers.

A small volume of water supply comes from surface water by two water treatment plants, Chandnighat and Saidabad. In 2003, a monthly (October) report of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) stated that 84.33% of the total supply of water came from groundwater source and the rest 15.67% was from surface water. Both of the water treatment plants are running with the average capacity of total water production of 264.10 million litres per day (MLD) (July 2002- October 2002) though the actual average production is 194.72 million litres per day (WASA, 2003). But unfortunately, the groundwater level in many areas of Dhaka city is drastically receding from about 0.3m per year at Banani to about 1m per year at Motijheel .



The vegetation coverage of Dhaka city has a great variety with indigenous and exotic species. According to an estimate of the Arboriculture Division of the Works Ministry, approximately 310 hectares of total area of Dhaka city accommodate parks and gardens (Holiday, March 7, 2003). It is estimated that there are nearly 41-46 parks/gardens in Dhaka city which includes Osmani Uddyan, Bahadur Shah Park, Botanical Garden, Zia Uddyan (Garden), Baldha Garden, Suhrawardi Uddyan, Ramna Park etc. Of these, Baldha garden and Botanical garden have a wide variety of plants and trees.

Besides local species, many exotic species were planted along the roadside, old secretariat area and in residential bungalows for the beautification of the city during 1905-06 when Dhaka was the capital of East Bengal and Assam. About 50 species were then planted, of which Aswath(Ficus religiosa), Debdaru (Polyalthia longifolia), Narikel(Cocos nucifera), Ashok (Saraca indica), Mahogany (Sweitana foetida), Shegun (Tectona grandis), Sissu (Dalbergia sisso) were very common though many of these species disappeared due to successive floods in 1987, 1988 (GOB, 1993).

It should be noted that many areas (e.g.Mirpur, Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur etc.) of Dhaka city had been covered by natural vegetation during the earlier days. With increased population, industrial and commercial establishments, and construction of roads and highways, most of these have been cleared over the years. From an aerial or bird’s eye view the city now looks like a jungle of buildings, apartments, slums and squatters. A large number of bird species were common in Dhaka, particularly pigeons, doves, kingfishers, parrots, jungle fowl, Common Pea-fowl (Moyur), kite or cheel, fishing eagle, vulture etc. But many of these are now extinct and the rest are rapidly disappearing. One good point is that a large number of migratory birds are found in Dhaka (especially in the lake of the National Zoo) in winter. Various species of ducks, seagull, falcons, harriers, lawpings, plovers, curlews, and sandpipers are also seen here during winter.

Many types of poisonous snakes including (local name) cobra, machhanad, panna, goma, daurhash, dubraj and non-poisonous snakes including ulobora, jinglabora, laudoga, ghauni,dhora, maittya shap etc were very common till the 1960s. A few species like cobra, dhora, matirshap etc. may still be found now a day. The number of amphibians and fishes has gone down in the last few years.

In Ramna Park and its surrounding area beside Minto Road, kingfishers were seen even during 1997-1998, which has almost disappeared. Some monkeys and mongoose were seen in old Dhaka even in the early ‘60s but their numbers have decreased considerably. They are almost out of sight now a day. However, it is a well known fact that fisheries biodiversity has been reduced severely due to pollution of surface water. Land ecosystem is also threatened with rapid and unplanned urbanization.

Social Situation




Population size, growth by both migration and natural means, has already made Dhaka a member of the world mega city family. The United Nations and other reports revealed that position of Dhaka mega city was 31st in 1985, 23rd in 1995 with a population of 8.5 millions, 11th in 2000 with a population of 12.3 millions. It is projected to be 4th in 2015 with a population of 21.1 million. A recent started that Dhaka has already become the 5th mega city of the world.


Increasing trend of population, area and density of Dhaka mega city and DCC in different years are given in Table 2.5 and 2.6, respectively. Table 2.7 shows population of different thanas from 1981 to 2001 including old (sl. 1 to 12) and new thanas (sl.13 to 22). Some of the new thanas were formed after 1991 by splitting other existing thanas.

It should be noted that after 1991, number of thanas has increased to 21 in 2003. Some of the major thanas were split to form new thanas viz. Khilgaon and Badda were formed by dividing Gulshan and Motijheel. Mirpur and Cantonment were split to form Pallabi and Kafrul. So, both population and area of the divided thanas decreased. Figure 2.3 shows increasing trend of population of major thanas of Dhaka while also showing decreasing trend of the same thana indicates division to form new units.


Overall poverty is showing a reducing trend at national level, but absolute and hard-core poverty of Dhaka city are 55% and 32% respectively, which is higher than the national average. Though the national poverty level has decreased to 49.8% in 2000 from 58.8% in 1991-92, the country status remained the same due to excessive growth of population. But the economic condition of poor of Dhaka is relatively better than the rural areas due to increasing business and trade; city based commercial and industrial development, multinational business and cooperation etc. There are large number of primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities in Dhaka city. Some of these universities also offer postgraduate degrees on environment. The adult literacy rate in urban area is 69.3%(BBS, 2001). But another states that the illiteracy rate of Dhaka city population is 45.2% of which 53% are women.

Nutrition and Human Health


Detailed research on the nutrition intake of Dhaka city dwellers is not available but the national nutritional status offers the following information :

  • Calorie intake, 1995-96: 2244
  • Protein intake (gm), 1995-96: 65
  • Per Capita food consumption (gm), 1997-98: 172.2


In Bangladesh, the mortality and morbidity are determined based on the reported incidences of 31 selected diseases at the national level. According to the health Bulletin 1999 of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 10 common diseases are dominating both mortality and morbidity rates in Bangladesh. Of them, pneumonia has the highest rate of mortality at national level. Respiratory disorders, diarrhea, malaria, skin disease, intestinal worm infection, peptic ulcer and anemia cause huge morbidity in both Dhaka and at the national level. Table 2.8 shows the estimated specific health status in Bangladesh (national) in 2001.

Table 2.8.  Specific health status in Bangladesh (national) in 2001.

Crude mortality rate 4.8 per 1000 population
Infant mortality rate 56 per 1000 live births
Mortality rate under five 77 per 1000 live births
Maternal mortality rate 3.1 per 1000 live births

Source: Statistical Pocketbook of Bangladesh 2002


It is assumed that due to the increasing level of degradation and pollution of air, water, noise and land, the health condition of Dhaka city people has severely deteriorated. According to SEHD study, morbidity rate of tenary   workers is 893.85/1000 whereas average morbidity rate of Bangladesh is 150.92/1000.


Human Settlement


The settlement is very critical for Dhaka city as the population growth is very high. As mentioned earlier, DCC has only 276-km2 area that accommodated a population of over 5.3 millions in 2001. An estimation of JICA shows this population of DCC became over 5.9 millions in 2004. Except a few residential areas like Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Uttara etc., all other areas are for mid and low income groups. About 30% of the total population of Dhaka lives in 3,007 informal settlements. It is reported that 70% of the total population live in only 20% of the residential land while the rest 30% live in 80% of the residential land in Dhaka city, which shows a large unequal distribution of settlements. According to Professor M.M. Akash of the University of Dhaka and Dr. Dibalok Singha of the Dusthya Shasthya Kendra (DSK), about 30 to 35% of the total population of Dhaka live in slum areas with 1700 to 10400 people per hector, which is highly overcrowded, rendering the living conditions totally unhygienic. Moreover, most of the slums do not receive the city water supply and sanitation services; hence they have insufficient water for daily use, throw waste here and there, and cook food very close to their living quarters. The slum of Dhaka is showing increasing trend overtime.


In 1998, there were only 1125 slums and squatter settlements in the city and the number had increased to 3007 by 1996, of which hardly any gets any form of municipal solid waste management services along with other amenities.


Box 2.2: Employment


The study to determine the employment rate in Dhaka or even in Bangladesh in any specific sector, both public and private, is limited. However, according to an available report, the employment situation of Dhaka city dwellers is as follows.

  • Informal activities: 24%
  • Household work: 28%
  • Other services: 25%
  • Unemployed: 23%
  • Employed: 77%

Source: Fukuoka Conference, 2000

Key Sectors and Concern



The establishment of industry and factory in Dhaka was largely started after the independence, though from the Mughal to Pakistan period (till 1962), the total number of industries was about 100, located in Postagola, Lakshamibazar, Imamganj, Gandaria, Farashganj, Faridabad, Shankharibazar,  Nawabganj, Amligola, Tantibazar, Patuatuly, Hazaribagh and Tejgaon.Most of these industries were small/ medium scale and were located all over the present old town and Tejgaon, a planned industrial area which has an area of 238 hectors. This area was designated for small and medium scale industrial establishments. However, the Muslim-embroidery-textile was the initial industrial movement in Dhaka from the beginning of its history. These industries were located in and around Dhaka city.


The Dhaka cotton mill was established at Postagola in 1938. A number of handlooms factories were also established in old town (Rajani Bose Lane, Chittaranjan Avenue, Mitford Road) and in Tejgaon. A few indigo indiustries were established in Nawabganj area. Besides these, perfumery, conch shell, horn carving, gold and silver smithy, filigree, soap, boat building, tannery, glass, match, oils,  iron and steel industries were also found till independence. Most of them were located at either old town or Tejgaon. Some of them were found in Mirpur area, for example, Prince Iron and Steel Industries, Mirpur Ceramic Works, Bux Rubber Co. Ltd. etc.

After independence, a large number of industries were established in Tejgaon and Hazaribagh area. The number of tanneries has increased to over 200 now from 26 in 1975. Nearly 3,000 garments industries have been established all over the city starting during the early ‘80s. However, after the independence, the number of total industries has increased to about 1200. Of these jute, tannery, dying and textile, printing, metal, cement, rubber, chemicals and pesticides, battery, petroleum refinery, distillery, plastics, brick manufacturing etc were established in a rapid and unplanned manner in different places of the city. Tejgaon has been built up with a mixture of large industries, which might be the main source of air and water pollution in the city, especially the SPM concentration that has already exceeded the International Standard. The high concentration of tanneries in the Hazaribagh area is the main source of water, air, soil pollution and even occupational health problems for the people living and working in that area. The numerous industries established in Postagola may be responsible for the localized pollution of air and water.


Transportation Services and Management


According to the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Banglapedia), the roads  of Dhaka city occupy only 8% (2230km) of the total surface area whereas according to standards, at least 25% is required to facilitate a smooth transport system (Banglapedia, 2003). The width of the city roads vary from 6m to 40m, though some of the roads are found to be less than 6m in width in the old town. The total length of the DCC roads in another report is 1968 km, but according to DCC officials, the length is 2300 km, of which 200 km are main thoroughfares, 110 km secondary roads, 152 km feeder roads and the rest are narrow lanes and by-lanes (The daily Star, January 18, 2004).

It is important to note that 300,000 rickshaws of Dhaka city account for 56% of the total vehicles, which occupy 73% of its road surface. But the DCC has the registration for only 88000 rickshaws (The Daily Star, Oct 26, 2003). The total number of registered motor vehicles up to 2002 in Dhaka was 293973, which accounted for 39% of the total transport mode, whereas walking and rickshaws share 45.8% and 15.2%, respectively (BRTA, 2001). However, the government has taken initiatives to remove unregistered rickshaws and restrict their movement in some of the main roads.

With rapid urbanization and excessive growth of population and settlements, the city failed to upgrade its road transport and network system, even though the growth of motor vehicles per year is about 6-7%, which is equal to or may even be more than the average population growth. Of the proposed total of 59 electronic traffic signals, a few have already been installed in different parts of the city, particularly, in Gulshan and Dhanmondi. This will be controlled by the DCC as soon as the installation is completed. According to a daily newspaper, nearly 80% of the licenses of taxicabs are illegal though they regularly ply the roads along with the huge number of non-motorized vehicles (Rickshaws) and create severe traffic congestion (The Daily Star,22 september, 2003).


Health Care Infrastructure and Services


The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh implements all health policies, plans and activities through the Director General of Health Services and Director General of Family Planning. Director General (DG) Health supervises all public health related activities including hospital service. A recent report of JICA stated that around 288 hospitals and diagnostic centers in Dhaka city provided 12093 beds (JICA, 2004). In fact, the major medical college, hospitals and institutions of the country are situated in Dhaka. But compared to the population of the city, the ratio of the number of doctors to patients is not adequate.


DCC has its own health services department to control the infectious diseases and maintains a number of hospitals and dispensaries that may serve as centers for emergency medical relief for the city dwellers. DCC maintains 6 hospitals and maternity clinics, 90 primary health service centres under UPHCP, 17 charitable dispensaries and 3 homeopathy laboratories for better health care of city dwellers. The primary health centers are located in 10 different zones of DCC.

According to the Health and Population Statistical Report 1999-2000, there are 5 Post Graduate Institutes, 4 Health Research institutes, 2 public medical colleges, 1 public dental college, 1 Paramedical Institute, 1 Nursing Training Centre, 1 Public Medical University, 9 Private Medical Colleges and 5 private dental colleges in Dhaka city. These provide academic, research and training in order to educate the people. Nursing Education is satisfactorily improving though the quality of the education of the private medical colleges is still under scrutiny and considered not as valuable as education from public institutions.

Occupational Health and Safety


A large number of people are involved in industrial and utility service jobs, but most of the industries do not adopt precautionary and safety measures for the workers. Million of people work in Hazaribagh tannery, Tejgaon Industrial area, textile mills, dyeing and other factories in Postagola, municipal solid waste management, motor and refrigerator repairing workshops and garments industries all over Dhaka. All these workers are substantially exposed to occupational health risk through inhalation, skin contact and ingestion route of hazardous chemicals. Tannery, battery, textile and dyeing industries should provide enough safety measures in their industrial operation but they hardly adhere to the safety regulations required to protect worker’s health. Every single tannery worker is exposed to hazardous chemicals that are released from tannery processing and operation. Surprisingly, 40% of the total workers are children. This direct and chronic exposure of such chemicals might have significant carcinogenic and long-term non-carcinogenic effect on the health of the workers, especially the children.

According to a recent study of NIPSOM and Bangladesh Medical College, many rickshaw pullers and vehicle drivers suffer from hearing difficulties. This may be due to their chronic exposure to higher level of sound from vehicular horns and other sources. Municipal solid waste workers should wear masks and hand gloves to avoid microbial infection but very few use it. Welding shops exist at almost every of roadside and market places. Workers weld without wearing goggles. Very few are seen using any protective shield. Due to such practices both workers and passersby are affected greatly in the process.


Water Supply and Sanitation


The city has a current demand of over 2000 million (2 billions) liters of water per day but Wasa can only deliver 1300 to 1500 million liters per day, covering about 55% of the city. The city with millions of people generate about 1.3 millions of m3 of sewage everyday of which hardly 40000 m3 gets treated by the only sewage treatment plant at Pagla, which is under the management control of WASA. WASA was established in 1963 for the water supply and sanitation services of Dhaka city (The New Age, 16 April, 2004). The  rest of the total generated sewage of Dhaka city directly goes into the river system of the city through open drains and canals.


Waste Generation and Disposal


The city generates around 4000 tons of solid waste of which nearly 50% is collected and disposed off in the municipal landfill sites in Matuail, Berri Band (side of embankment), Uttara (Details in section 3.6).


Environmental Legislation and Management


In 1989, the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) established the Department of Environment (DoE) to investigate and control the environmental situation of Bangladesh through the enforcement of existing environment related laws, policy and guidelines. Some of the acts and regulations were newly introduced and also amended by the government with regard to the existing environmental, land use, and agricultural laws, which would largely and legally support the Department of Environment. The environment related laws, policy and guidelines made by the government so far are given in Table 2.9.


Regulatory Bodies and Implementing Agencies


Ministry of Environment and Forest, deals with the planning, promotion, coordination and overseeing the implementation of environmental and forestry programme. The Department of Environment, carries out the policy analysis, planning and evaluation, programme coordination, and monitoring and evaluation of the environmental programs. On the other hand, Forest Department deals with the forestry programmes.


Table 2.12 Environment related policies and laws

Law/Act/Guideline Environmental component/sector
Master plan for solid waste management for Dhaka city (on process) Solid waste management
City Corporation Acts/ordinances (all) inner city Environmental Management
The Public Parks Act 1904 Parks, Recreation spots
The Forest Act 1927 Forest
Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 Air, noise
Town Improvement act, 1950 Land use
The Building Construction Act 1952 Construction of buildings/houses
The Private Forest Ordinance 1959 Private Forests
Factories Act, 1965 Air, occupational hazards
Pesticide Ordinance, 1971 Agriculture
Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation) Order 1973 Wildlife, forests
Traffic law, 1983 Air, noise
Irrigation Water Rate Ordinance 1983 Agriculture
Groundwater Management Ordinance 1985 Ground water
Brick Burning Control Act, 1989 Air, land
Environment Policy, 1992 Air, water, land, health
Atomic Security & Radiation Control Act 1993
National Forestry Policy 1994 Vegetation
Environment Conservation Act, 1995 Air, water and noise
Water supply and Sewerage Authority Act 1996 Water, sewerage
Environmental Conservation Rules, 1997 Air, water and noise
EIA guidelines of industries, 1997 Air, water and noise
Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan, 1997 Land use
Water Supply and Sanitation Act, 1998 Water and sanitation
National Fisheries Policy 1998 Water, aquatic habitat
National Water Policy, 1999 (approved) Water
National Agriculture Policy 1999 Land use
Industrial Policy 1999 Air, water
Environment Court Act, 2000 Air, water, land etc
Open Space and Wetland Protection Act, 2000 Land
Bangladesh Water Development Board Act 2000 Water, agriculture
Urban Water Body Protection Law 2001 Water
Noise Control Act, 2004 Noise
National Water Management Plan, 2004 Water
Municipal Ordinance, 1977 (amended in 1983) Land use, water, solid waste management

Source:JICA,1999; Huq, 2004


Environmental Jurisprudence


The Department of Environment holds the legal base for the conservation and management of the environment of Bangladesh. According to the Environment Conservation Act 1995, the DoE has the right to initiate legal proceedings against any environmental violation through the Director General. If anyone contravenes any provision of the act, it is punishable with fine and imprisonment or both. However, after the DoE carries out the legal proceedings, the magistracy/judiciary can only implement the physical closure of non-compliant unit through disconnecting gas and electricity connection.

Recent Initiatives


A number of programmes have been initiated in the environmental sector of Bangladesh to help in the protection and conservation of the environment. Some of these are the Bangladesh Environment Management Programme (BEMP), Sustainable Environment Management Programme (SEMP), Knowledge and Research (KAR) and asia Pro Eco. Besides these, the government, NGOs and international organizations are also involved with both technical and financial support in the environmental management of Bangladesh. The Department of Environment (DoE), Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), Waste Concern and a few other local and international NGOs initiate public awareness programmes and exchange environmental information.


Transparency and Accountability


All core government agencies are officially empowered with relevant laws, policies, guidelines and other logistic supports to keep the city environmental friendly and livable. But many of these agencies may have practices of lack of transparency and accountability. Dhaka City Corporation is the main authority with many compulsory activities of which municipal solid waste management, maintenance of roads, bridges and culverts, construction and maintenance of private markets and shopping centres, prevention of infectious diseases and epidemics are noteworthy. The bumpy and pitted roads, improper solid waste management and poor initiative against infectious diseases and epidemics partially contribute to the gap of transparency and accountability of the DCC.


Capacity and Resources


The city authority has limited funds for utility service management and development activities. In 2000, JICA recommended that the DCC should have at least 510 conservancy vehicles and trucks for proper waste collection, transportation and disposal, whilst the DCC had only 382 conservancy vehicles at that time (DCC, 2000). They also stated that the DCC should increase 25% of conservancy vehicles every five year but due to financial constraint DCC currently has only 370 trucks and container carriers, a number that has surprisingly decreased rather than increasing.

Public Awareness


A large number of people of Dhaka may still be unaware about the environment, how it gets polluted and why it should be protected.According to Professor M M Akash of the University of Dhaka and Dr. Dibalok Singha of the Dusthya Shasthya Kendra (DSK), slum dwellers are living in a unhygienic condition and polluting through regular activities i.e. burning of biomass, unsanitary practices etc. Lack of awareness and services have identified as major cause behind it. Many farmers in the city area use pesticides but they are not aware of the harmful effects of these in the long run and how these should be handled and applied to the fields.

Key Environment Issues


Nine key environment issues have been identified which are air, water, land, noise, solid waste management, sewage management, slums and squatters, environmental health and natural disaster. This section provides in depth analysis of each of the issues mentioned above.



Air, the most integral part of the physical environment, sustains life of both plant and animal kingdoms including human beings. Animals take in the major constituent, oxygen from the air giving out carbon dioxide, and plants take in carbon dioxide, giving out oxygen during photosynthesis. Both land and aquatic ecosystems are naturally interrelated through direct participation of air, an invisible ocean. Degradation of the quality of the environment, including that of the air due to anthropogenic activities has now emerged as a major concern all over the world. With the growth of mega cities in Asia-Pacific region, air pollution has come at the top of the key environmental issues in the region. Additional environmental impacts of air pollution include damage to buildings and structures, agricultural crops, vegetation and forests; and reduced visibility. Air quality in Dhaka is a serious issue in view of the magnitude of its health and economic impacts. Although some measures have already been taken to improve the air quality in Dhaka, considerable effort will be needed in the coming years to improve quality to meet the standards.

Status of Air Quality in Dhaka


Economic, industrial and demographic growths are driving urbanization in Bangladesh as it is in the other developing countries. Emergence of urban conurbation of extremely high population density is affecting the quality of life in many different ways. Uncontrolled emissions from motor vehicles and other economic activities give rise to air and other forms of pollution. High levels of emission of air pollutants in a small area exceed the processes of dilution and dispersal, leading to severe episodes of ambient air pollution. Fairly comprehensive air quality data are being collected for Dhaka nowadays (AQMP (2002-04) and Biswas et al (2001, 2004)). The summary of air quality data for Dhaka obtained at the Continuous Air Monitoring Station (CAMS) of the Department of Environment is shown in Table 3.1.


It can be seen from Table 3.1 that the main pollutant of concern in Dhaka is particulate matter. Both PM10 and PM2.5 levels are extremely high, being much above the proposed standard. The NO2 levels are also now close to the limit and may become a concern in the future. The levels of other pollutants are still low and thus are not important from health point of view. Lead (Pb) concentration is not shown in the table. The Pb level is now sufficiently low (i.e. around 100 mg/m3 ) and therefore airborne lead is no longer considered a health issue. However, blood lead levels in children are still high indicating that other sources of lead may exist. Investigation using the receptor-modeling approach to identify approach to identify sources of particulate air pollution has been reported. Seven components have been found in the coarse PM (PM2.2-10µ) and six components have been found in the fine (PM 2.2µ) particulate matter. The major sources are motor vehicle emission, re-suspended road dust, biomass burning, and construction and fugitive sources. The fugitive sources probably include industrial emissions. In the fraction about 50% of the contributions come from motor vehicles.


The economic valuation of the air pollution revealed that between US$ 121 to 353 million per year (2003 estimate) can be saved in Dhaka as health cost if the PM10 pollution level is reduced by a modest 20% of the current level and to the proposed national standard. Details of emission sources are given below.

Emission from Motor Vehicles


The absolute number of motorized 3-4 wheel vehicles plying on the city street is not large, being only about two hundred thousand. However, the emissions from the vehicles are substantial due to low technology of the vehicle fleet, weak maintenance culture, overloading and over-fuelling of heavy-duty vehicles among other causes. Most of the private operator fleets consist of highly polluting old vehicles. These transport companies have limited resources for operation and maintenance. Poor maintenance coupled with poor fuel quality, congestion (photo 3.1) and poor transport infrastructure exacerbate the vehicular air pollution in the city. Details of vehicle statistics and their emission and emission factors are given in Table 3.2-3.6 and figure 3.1.

As pointed out earlier, the main pollutants of concern in Dhaka are the particulate matter and motor vehicles are major contributors to PM pollution. Most of the vehicular PM pollution (> 80%) comes from the diesel vehicles in Dhaka (Table 3.6). This is also the situation for NOX and SO2.Thus major policy decisions in respect of diesel vehicle pollution control are imperative. The gasoline vehicles contribute more to CO and HC pollution. The ambient concentrations of these pollutants are still low and thus gasoline vehicle pollution management is not yet a major issue. The major gain in PM pollution reduction from the baby-taxi ban in January 2003 (box 3.1) is being progressively lost due to increasing pollution from diesel vehicles.

Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP) was prepared in 1997 by RAJUK to be used in all sectoral development in an integrated manner. However, it is unfortunate that the current development process of Dhaka city still may not be following the recommendations of the DMDP.


Table 3.5. Vehicular Emission in 2004 (in percentage) in Dhaka

Sl. Vehicle Emission (%)
1 Cars 66.5 10.8 12.6 38.6 7.9
2 Taxis-CNG 2.8 2.3 0.0 4.1 0.5
3 3W Taxis-CNG 3.8 3.1 0.0 5.5 0.7
4 LD Diesel 3.9 17.9 18.5 5.7 18.6
5 Buses 8.2 37.5 38.8 11.9 38.9
6 Trucks 5.9 27.0 27.9 8.5 28.1
7 Motorcycles 8.9 1.4 2.1 25.7 5.3
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0


Figure-3.1. Proportion of PM10 Emission from Different Categories of Vehicle in 2004


The recommendation was to implement all sectoral/utility development as short term (1995-2000), mid-term (2000-2005) and long term (2005-2010) plan. Mid term period is over but many of the developments have not started or been implemented yet; for example, subway development, commuter light railway and sufficient pedestrian facility programmes in the city area.

However, the government has taken several initiatives and policy decisions (Box-3.2) to update the existing environmental acts, rules and regulations for environmental improvement in general and air quality improvement in particular. Enforcement of all the environmental laws and regulations remains a major issue to be tackled in the future.  Besides laws, policies and guidelines, the government has taken a few other initiatives to improve and better transport and traffic management. The noteworthy initiatives are:

  • Dhaka Integrated Transport Study (DITS) conducted during 1991-1992 to determine the transport status of Dhaka.
  • Dhaka Transport Coordination Board (DTCB) established in 2001 to develop an innovative transport policy and guidelines for the improvement of transport status of Dhaka city.


Table 3.6 Dhaka Vehicular Emission in 2004 for diesel and non-diesel vehicles (in percentage)


Vehicle Emission (%)





Box 3.1. Eliminating Emissions from 2-stroke Engine Baby Taxis in Dhaka

Two-stroke engine gasoline-fuelled three-wheelers, nicknamed “baby-taxis,” provided useful point-to-point transportation for passengers but were major sources of particulate and hydrocarbons air pollution in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Numbering around 50,000, their emissions were exacerbated by the use of inferior-quality and excess use of lubricant (called straight mineral oil). These polluting vehicles were banned from plying in Dhaka from January 1, 2003. Because of prior consultation in preparation for the ban, there was no social unrest even though there were some negative impacts on the livelihood of the people involved with operation of these vehicles. The public response has been overwhelmingly positive, citing much clearer air long traffic corridors in Dhaka. The weekly average before and removal of baby taxis showed a 30% drop in average PM10 level.



Box-3.2. Recent Policy Decision of The Government

  • Introduction of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) which has tremendously helped reduce the air pollution of Dhaka City
  • Introduction of unleaded gasoline from 1st July of 1999
  • Notification of lubricant standards on 1st January, 2001
  • Banning of buses older than 20 years and trucks older than 25 years in Bangladesh from 2002
  • Banning of two-stroke engines three wheeler vehicles from 1st January, 2003
  • Banning of imported reconditioned cars older than 5 years
  • Reduction of number of NMVs (Non-Motorized Vehicles) and by restriction of movement of such vehicles within certain areas of the city and during specific periods of the day
  • Banning of operation of commercial trucks in Dhaka City during day time (8 am to

Emission from Solid Waste Landfill Site


The solid waste management has become an issue of concern of the general people of Dhaka. In the last ten years, amount of municipal solid waste has increased from 2500 tons/day to 4500 tons/day. Only 40-50% of the total generated waste is disposed in landfill sites and the rest usually remains on the streets, drains and any open-space, spreading bad odor, which is a major public nuisance. All abandoned and existing municipal solid waste landfill sites (both temporary and permanent) are open and within a one km of human settlement. These landfill sites emit gases including methane and non-methane organic compounds, for example, benzene, viny1 chloride, and from leachate in the ground. An estimate of solid waste generation is given in Table 3.7.


Huge amount of methane, CO2 and non-methane organic compounds are being released in to the air of the city from landfill sites (Photo 3.2,3.3). The Government, the DCC and some NGOs particularly Waste Concern are trying to increase recycling and reusing of the existing waste (see section 3.6 for details). However, the DCC needs sanitary landfill sites immediately otherwise the nearby residents may suffer a lot from long-term exposure of non-methane organic compounds viz. benzene.


Emission from Brick Kiln


The brickfields around Dhaka city usually operate for about six months a year. Every year, in the dry season, they burn nearly 2 million tons of coal (The Daily Prothom Alo, 5 March 2004). These brickfields emit huge quantities of air pollutants such as PM, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and of course, carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas (Photo 3.4). The impacts for the city environment are the following:

  • These brickfields may be responsible for a significant fraction of the PM pollution in the city air nowadays.
  • As many of the brickfields are located on the north of the city, the impact of the emission is high during the dry season when air pollution levels are at their worst.
  • Reduction in the agriculture production.


The government has recently taken a few measures to control emission from brickfields, but according to the available reports, the current level of compliance is not high. Moreover, rubber (tires), plastics, and wood are widely burnt along with coal, violating the acts and policy decisions of the government.


Heightened monitoring and enforcement of the existing regulations are essential for reducing emissions from brickfield. The government may try developing alternatives of bricks as building material for construction activities.



Box 3.3 The City Center: The first Designated Car Parking Area in Dhaka City

The first car-parking center is being constructed jointly by the DCC and Orion Group in Motijheel area in Dhaka with private sector investment. The construction started in January 2004 and will be completed by 2007. The center will be a 37 floor multistoried building of which first the 10 floors will be used for parking cars. These 10 floors will accommodate about 500 cars at the same time. The other floors are for business sectors and there will be a large conference room on the top floor. The area of the center is about 7 acres. However, this is a great initiative in reduction of traffic congestion in Dhaka city.



Source: The Daily Prothom Alo, 22 May 2005

Industrial Emission

In Dhaka city, most of the industries lack in proper emission and effluent treatment systems. In Hazaribagh, nearly 62 acres of land is occupied by the tannery industries without any treatment plant or protective measures against the corrosion of local buildings and apartments due to toxic emissions. It has been reported several times that many residents and workers are acutely suffering from diseases caused by tannery emissions. Unregulated emissions from industries in Tejgaon industrial area also contribute to degradation of air quality of the city. However, the extent of the problem has not yet been quantified. The Government has the following policies, acts and guidelines that directly or indirectly address environmentally sound industrial operation.


  • Environment Conservation Act, 1995 (amended in 2000 and 2002)
  • Environment Court Act, 2000 (amended in 2002)
  • Environment Conservation Rules, 1997
  • EIA guideline for industries, 1997
  • Factories Act, 1939
  • Environment Policy


Water Resources


Water is one of the main components of environment that has tremendous role in every mode of human life. It is unfortunate that the human activities everywhere in the world are continuously polluting water. Many of the rivers get polluted with industrial effluents, municipal waste, agricultural waste, sewage disposal, etc. However, water resource is source of major serious concern, considering its contribution to the need of human beings and the natural environment. In fact, Bangladesh is one of those polluted countries, which currently holds 1176 industries that discharge about 0.4 millions m3 of untreated waste of the rivers in a day (JICA, 1999). The water quality of many of the rivers, which are close to industrial districts or areas, were tested and found to be beyond the standard limit of water quality parameters.


Water resources of Dhaka city is the most important and is the burning issue in terms of extreme degradation of water quality of the surrounding water bodies, for example, rivers, lakes, ponds and canals. Huge quantities of industrial effluents, solid waste from riverside settlements, petroleum products from ships, launches, cargoes, boats, untreated sewage etc. regularly get dumped into the Buriganga, Balu, Turag and Shitalakshya rivers, which are already severely polluted. The city lakes are not usable for any purpose. In addition, Dhaka is currently facing huge water supply crisis due to the decline in the ground water level in many city areas.


Surface Water Quality


In the last few decades, Dhaka has been greatly changed with rapid urbanization and industrialization, especially through garments manufacturing, establishment of small and large-scale business enterprises, increase of multinational business and trade firms, increasing participation of international organization in the local and national development process etc. Unfortunately, this rapid urbanization process has not taken place in a formal and planned manner. This unplanned approach of development has made this city “a land of unhealthy life”. The rivers Buriganga, Balu, Turag and Shitalakshya together receive huge amount of untreated sewage and industrial liquid waste as well as municipal waste regularly through the three major canal systems and direct disposal. Water of the surrounding rivers and lakes has already exceeded the standard limits of many water quality parameters, for example, DO, BOD, COD, PH. The following Tables (3.8-3.11) and Figures (3.2-3.3) indicate deterioration of the river and lake water quality.


Table 3.8 shows that in the dry season of 2003, the Buriganga experienced an average dissolved oxygen measuring less than 2 mg/1 whereas the standard limit is 5 mg/1(BCAS,1999).The river Turag also had the same record of having less than the required limit. On the other hand, the concentration of BOD, coliform bacteria and a few other water quality indicators also exceed the standard limits in most of the rivers (Table 3.9). Moreover, the presence of excess amount of concentration of heavy metals including Al, Cd, Cr, Pb, Hg confirms the chemical contamination of water (Table 3.11). All these are occurring possibly due to following reasons.


Lack  of Effective Enforcement


Water Resources Planning Organization (WARPO) and the Department of Environment (DOE) is the two key organizations responsible for water resources  planning, management, and the analysis of water quality. Four rivers namely the Buriganga, Balu, Turag and Shitalakshya surround Dhaka city. Of them, Buriganga, Balu, and Turag are significantly polluted by both land-based (solid waste, agricultural waste, industrial waste, human waste) and water based-activities (dumping of solid waste and wastewater from water transports). The water quality of these rivers are so degraded that they are completely unusable for any domestic or even bathing purposes, particularly in the dry season. The water quality parameters, for example DO, BOD, COD have far exceeded the standard limits that indicate degraded water quality resulting in a) loss of aquatic biodiversity, b) adverse impact on industrial and agricultural users and consumers, and c) increased water borne diseases.

The DOE, IWM (earlier SWMC) and WARPO have monitored surface water level and quality, and found continuous deterioration of water quality of the surrounding rivers and lakes. This indicates insufficient enforcement of relevant policies, acts and guidelines (Box 3.4) though the following organizations are specifically responsible for overall management of water resources.

  • Ministry of Water Resources deals with water resources development and planning
  • Bangladesh Water Development Board(BWDB) works with implementation of water related projects
  • Water Resources Planning Organization (WARPO) deals with nation wide water resources planning and management through preparing National Water Management Plan (NWMP), National water Resources Database, and scrutinizing and clearing water related projects
  • Department of Environment (DOE) holds the responsibility of environmental management and control of water resources.


* Environmental Quality Standards (E.Q.S) for Bangladesh. Department of Environment; July 1991

Some other government agencies and NGOs are also actors in the water sector, viz Ministry of Environment and Forest, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE), Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), International Center for Living and Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies(BCAS), Institute of Water Modeling(IWM), Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), and Center for Environment and Geographic Information System (CEGIS). However proper management of water resources recognizes many limitations, some of which are as follows:

  • Inadequate fund
  • Manpower shortage
  • Technical deficiency (Lack of equipment and logistic support)
  • Professional negligence
  • Lack of transparency and accountability

The government must take an effective surface water management initiative for Dhaka city as a top priority issue. Continuation of the current situation will spread the pollution and service providing authority will find no source to collect water for household supply in the near future. The key reasons are:


Untreated Sewage Disposal


As mentioned in section 8, the existing sewage treatment plant treats only 40,000 to 50,000 m3 of sewage while the city generates about 1.3 million m3 . Most of the rest directly or indirectly reach the surrounding rivers (details in section 3.7).


Municipal waste disposal into city water bodies


Dhaka city has a population of over 6 million that regularly generate about 4000 tons of solid waste, of which less than 50% is disposed in the landfill site and a significant part of the remaining waste goes into the water bodies

Table 3.12. Concentration of water quality indicators of lake water of Dhaka city (November, 2001)

Name of the lake PH BOD DO TS Coli forms
Dhanmondi lake near Russell Square 6.95 1.9 6.1 168 600
Gulshan-Baridhara lake, Road No.11 7.1 35 0.5 302 1200
Stiadel Lake East Side 6.91 2.6 6.6 92 500
Ramna Lake Beside Ramna Ch. Restaurant 6.25 25 1.3 87 700
Crescent Lake East side 5.9 2.1 8.3 98 900
EQS 6.5-8.5 3 or less 5 or above 200 or less

Note: Environmental Quality Standard (EQS) of lake water (used as recreation purpose)

All units in mg/L accept the following:

Five days BOD at 200 C

Coli-Colonies/100m1/(24 hrs incubation at 350C)


Disposal of waste, wastewater and petroleum products from water transport vehicles

Most of the districts of Bangladesh have direct water transport communication with Dhaka through the BIWTA terminal at Sadarghat. Everyday, a large number of launches, steamers, cargo and country boats and other vehicles arrive and leave from and for other districts with passengers and products. This route is used to transport different types of petroleum or chemical products (paints, mosquito coil, spray, grease, agro-chemicals viz. pesticides, fertilizers) from Dhaka to different districts of the country (see photo 3.5). During loading and unloading, the cargo vessels containing these materials get damaged and trip into the river. Many people visit this terminal daily and they also dump wastes into the river. All launches, steamers, boats, trawlers use oil or petroleum products to run the vessels or for transportation elsewhere. These petroleum products and wastewater are also regularly disposed of into the river.


Unplanned development and encroachment of rivers


Dhaka has rapidly developed with a large number of industrial and commercial establishments, formal settlements, roads and highways and growth of real estates. Most of these development activities were carried out in an unplanned way and many of them were established illegally. According to a survey of DOE, there are 244 establishments, which include 35 slums, 20 saw mills, 16 dock-yards, 11 fruit and vegetable go-downs, 7 mosques and madrsas, 4 manufacturing industries and 20 textile mills encroaching and occupying about 50 acres of Buriganga river. The same practices are continuing with all the lakes of Dhaka city. Many small—scale business enterprises, slums and houses are built by encroaching on Gulshan and Banani Lakes.


It is also assumed that the disappearance of small water bodies (e.g. ponds, ditches etc.) in the city may be due to encroachment and illegal filling up of wetlands by the local muscle power. 244 illegal establishments were found  and the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) demolished nearly 200 of them, though within a couple of days, a number of illegal structures were erected again. BIWTA is preparing a proposal to protect the Buriganga which includes the beautification of Sadarghat terminal and construction of a secondary port at Ali Bahar Char near Pagla.


Agricultural activities and unsanitary practices


Nearly 40 percent of the total land area of Dhaka city is used for agricultural mainly horticulture practices. Many farmers use pesticides and fertilizers in their agricultural fields. Some of the pesticides may remain active for a considerable period and do not degrade easily, which in turn flow into the water bodies during the rainy season. It is some time reported that many farmers still use banned pesticides to get more agricultural yields without caring for the consequences. In fact, country as whole has very little enforcement in controlling the use of harmful pesticides and inorganic fertilizers.

Many people, especially those living in slums and squatters, defecate in the water bodies (photo 3.8), which are additional factors of intensifying microbial contamination of surface water. A large number of latrines are built for the workers of industries and commercial centers on the riverbanks that are also used by the public and pavement dwellers.


Threat to Groundwater Resources


Besides the deterioration of surface water quality, ground water, the most dependable natural water resource for drinking water of Dhaka city, is also under threat due to a) over exploitation by 1083DTWs (WASA- 395 and Private- 688) (WASA, 2004), and b) low rate of recharge. The unplanned urbanization (construction) has created huge impervious areas in the city that does not allow rainwater to be absorbed into the soil. Also, the city does not have enough open spaces for rainwater to accumulate. These two factors together threaten the ground water resources, since recharge is not occurring as required. This may be the reason for the decline in GW level. Some of the areas like Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Dhaka Cantonment and Dhanmondi have a record of rapid decline. Moreover, Wasa recently found high concentrations of E. coli in the ground water of old town of Dhaka. According to a recent joint study of the DoE and WASA, eleven pumping stations out of thirty-two showed both chemical and microbial contamination of groundwater (The Daily Star, 17 January, 2005). The identified contaminants were residual chlorine, coliform and faecal coliform.


Inadequate Water Supply


The excessive population growth with uncontrolled migration and natural increase together has created extreme demand on the utility services of the city, especially, the supply of water. In a recent report of WASA, the total supply water was 1376 MLDs, of which about 1148 million liters were drawn from ground water source through 395 deep tube wells in Dhaka city. The rest of the water comes from Saidabad and Dhaka water treatment plants (WASA, 2004). The city gets about 81% of the total water from ground water sources (WASA, 2004). The report also shows that in the last five years, the demand for supply water has increased to 2000 million liters in 2003 from about 1345 million in 1998, when the number of deep tube wells of WASA was only 234 (DOE and IUCN, 2000).  This demand increases during summer, when the supply decreases. This causes various problems for the city people, which are as follows:

  • Severe water scarcity, especially in poor households
  • Worsened sanitation
  • People suffer from water related and water borne diseases in larger numbers.

WASA can supply water to only 55% to 60% of city people and the rest gets water from privately owned DTWs. According to WASA, the number of these privately owned DTWs in Dhaka city is 688, In fact, rapid real estate development, industrial establishment and informal settlements have created huge demand, which is met through legal and illegal water supply connections. According to the managing director of WASA, there are about 50,000 illegal connections in Dhaka(The Daily Star, January 25, 2004). He added that Mirpur and Postagola areas have maximum illegal connections. Many of the legal and illegal connections may be causing huge misuse of water, which also creates supply crisis. There would be a severe water crisis in the near future due to present over exploitation of water and increasing surface water pollution. The Table 3.13 show the recent demand and deficiency of supply water in Dhaka city.


Table 3.13. Dhaka city water supply demand and deficiency (WASA, 2003,2004)

Year Deep tube wells

(Nos.)Water Supply Coverage (%)Water Demand (MLD)Water Production (MLD)Deficiency (MLD)1998234421345868-47720033815520001147-8532004395552050(approx)1148-902




Land is another key component of the environment, which has supported human existence for thousands of years with its natural quality and quantity. But the land use practices of the last few decades have caused serious degradation of its natural value in many parts of the world, especially in Asia and Pacific. Asia and the Pacific covers around 23 percent of the total land of the earth, of which a large part is facing critical land degradation and soil contamination. The major driving forces are high population growth and density, poor land management practices and inequities in access to land and resources (UNEP, 2002).

Bangladesh has the highest record of land degradation and soil contamination, mainly caused by unwise use of agricultural inputs and inefficient management. But in Dhaka, huge inequity in land use practices and patterns, excessive pressures on land, uncontrolled industrial management as well as agricultural degrades and contaminates the city lands. Most of the city land receive huge amount of pesticides and polluted water from the surrounding rivers during cultivation. The city also lacks proper solid waste management systems. Industrial discharges, especially from the tanneries in Hazaribagh are severely polluting large areas of soil surface with different toxic chemicals. In fact, rapid urbanization, industrial development, increased economic activities toward development with participation of national and international parties also remain responsible for land and soil degradation.

State of Land Resources


Excessive population growth with formal and informal economic activities resulted in the growth of numerous informal and formal housing settlements, mushrooming shopping complexes, huge number of place of worships (e.g. mosques), retail markets, roads construction etc. To support the booming population and increasing economic activities, it is necessary to carry out development and establishment processes in a planned manner. The government has actually failed to support the population due to constraints, especially financial and administrative. In addition, none of the government utility and security service providers could meet the demand of the city dwellers satisfactory or exercise proper control over its services to the city dwellers. As a result, private and informal housings were developed without any regard for land use plan or policy. Lack of enforcement in some ways also contributed to the establishment of private settlements in this manner. Consequently, most of the areas of the city have become congested due to lack of open space and many areas covered with concrete structures have decreased the area of infiltration of rainwater into the soil.


Improper city land use practices


From the beginning of the history of Dhaka to the present day, the development of some areas only went through a planned way. An attempt was made by the East Pakistan Government to establish a high class residential area in Dhanmondi, when the other contemporary sophisticated areas like Wari, Ramna, Purana Paltan were spoiled by excessive development of low rent houses, small business enterprises, educational institutions, coaching centers, health care centers etc. The same thing happened to Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, and Uttara, with the extension of Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Badda and the other adjoining areas. The first Master Plan of Dhaka suggested that at least 480 hectors of open space would be kept in the city for better condition of the city environment. According to the then Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT), the open space had decreased to 318 hectors in 1978 and recently the concerned people think that the city may contain less than 60 hectors of open space now (The Daily Prothom Alo, 6 March, 2005).

In fact, none of the development activities properly follow any plan or policy of land use, which causes the following problems-


  • Reduced open space
  • Reduced vegetation cover
  • Loss of carrying capacity
  • Loses dignity of residential area
  • Threatens environmental sustainability
  • Increased health risk


These are mainly happening due to excessive Pressure on and access to city land with rapid development and establishment of a) industry and factory, b) road infrastructure, c) health and educational infrastructure, d) commercial establishments, e) real estate and f) formal and informal settlements.


The government had prepared a Master Plan in 1959 considering the land use practices within the greater metropolitan area of Dhaka city and handed over to the then Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT) to implement the recommendations. In 1987, the government further realized the importance of Dhaka city land use practices and upgraded DIT to RAJUK( capital development authority) giving it more responsibilities regarding city development and improvement. Later, within five years of RAJUK’s establishment, they had the opportunity to prepare a new Master Plan for the capital in 1992, Which included a five year duration for planning and implementation. One of the major recommendations of the DMDP was not to establish multistoried shopping complexes in the city area, particularly the northeastern zone of the city, but this recommendation is not being followed resulting in mushroom growth of shopping  malls elsewhere.



Box 3.4. Land use violation!!

A survey conducted by Dhanmondi Paribesh Unnayan Jote found about 142 educational institutions in the total 296 commercial organizations. These commercial organizations are located in almost every road of this designated residential area through only the plots adjacent to Mirpur Road, Satmasjid Road, Road No-27 and Road No-2 were permitted to be converted for commercial purpose.



Source: The Daily Star, 6 March, 2005


Mixed Land Use Practices


Dhaka has been experiencing huge migration and natural growth of population every year due to many push and pull factors. This huge population growth has increased the basic demand for settlements and utility services.These demands turns into establishment of both formal and informal settlements (slums and squatters) rapidly all around the city. Most of the designated residential areas including Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Baridhara, Uttara, and Banani are also more or less occupied by excess number of schools, colleges, universities, coaching centers, industries and factories particularly garments, health care centers (hospitals, clinics, diagnostic centers), mushrooming shopping malls and small-scale business enterprises (see Box 3.5). The first designated residential area, Dhanmondi, became a semi-commercial area with above settlements. The same situation is prevailing in the old city. It is very difficult now to identify whether the old city currently contains any residential area, though once major parts of it were high-class residential areas. The old city is now severely crowded and compacted with population and housing respectively. In addition, a large number of textile and dyeing industries, washing plants, garment factories also occupy the old city. This mixed land use practice is one of the causes of the following problems.

  • Degraded living standards and quality of housing
  • Pollution of surrounding air and surface water due to industrial operations
  • Damage to residential buildings
  • Noise pollution
  • Traffic congestion that may degrade air quality of the residential area.


Box 3.5. Water Logging: An Emerging Concern of City Dwellers

Heavy rainfall of small duration causes water logging in most of the areas of Dhaka city. This water logging is primarily due to inadequate storm water sewer infrastructure or absence of any sewer system at all. Furthermore, if there is any storm sewer system, then it will be found less effective being partly or fully filled with sediment or will be found inadequate in size or laid in improper grade. All these causes make the system disabled to drain out the storm water in time. Covering the storm water inlets by road carpeting materials or other construction materials and improper maintenance of inlets of storm sewer aggravates the scale of this problem. Increase of concrete/metal surface day by day is also contributing in increasing the volume of surface runoff, which is worsening the waterlogging phenomenon.













Encroachment of rivers, canals, wetlands, forests and agricultural land for settlements


The need for settlements for the ever-increasing population and economic activities in the city influenced deforestation, encroachment on wetlands and agricultural land all around the city. Most of the lakes of Dhaka city are now more or less occupied due to both formal and informal settlements. Local influential people have also been occupying huge quantities of land reclaimed from lakes, canals and rivers. In fact, the wetland encroachment in Dhaka city has become a regular practice with influential people’s demand for land, which is threatening the wetland ecosystem and biodiversity. According to WASA, only 26 canals out of the former 43 are recognizable now in Dhaka city and the rest are somehow encroached to an extent that severely decreased the drainage capacity of the city (The Daily Star, 30, March, 2005). The city is also expanding towards the north and the east, occupying agricultural lands. All these create the following difficulties.

  • Water logging ( Box 3.5) during rainy season
  • Reduction of agricultural production
  • Threat to wetland ecosystem
  • Reduced vegetation coverage
  • Reduce recreation facilities
  • Recently, the government has decided to get rid of all sorts of encroachment on the water bodies to improve the city drainage situation. Already, the government has demolished most of the illegal structures on the Kalyanpur canal and this drive will continue in order to recover 7 more canals in the city (The Daily Star and The Daily Jugantar, 30,March, 2005).


Soil Pollution


Besides the conservation of land with rapid development and unplanned settlement growth, the city also faces a severe soil contamination in the industrial areas especially in Hazaribagh and Tejgaon. Recently studies were carried out on the soil quality of different industrial areas of Dhaka city by the Norway Agricultural University (1999) and the Austrian Research Center (2000). Table 3.14 shows their findings.

Table 3.14. Concentration of heavy metals in the soil of industrial areas of Dhaka city


Industrial Area Heavy Metals
Cd (mg/kg) Pb (mg/kg) Zn (mg/kg) Cr (mg/kg)
Hazaribagh 1.8 99 477 11000
Tejgaon 2.6 136 685


The analysis of the soil of Tejgaon and Hazaribagh industrial area brings to light severe contamination with heavy metals exceeding the environment quality standards. Mr. Jordan of the Austrian Research Center also found the soil of Tejgaon to be acidic with Ph 5.7. Moreover, improper solid waste management also causes soil pollution through formation of leaching. Several studies were conducted in different years to determine soil quality by testing the leaching of landfill sites. The leachates of abandoned and existing landfill sites were also tested by the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). The Gabtoli site showed pollution with presence of faecal coliform bacteria and an excess of BOD and COD.


The government does not yet have enough effective initiative for monitoring land and soil quality of the city. However, there is a decision to relocate the tannery industries from Hazaribagh, an area that is now severely polluted with chromium. All the industrial areas should be monitored frequently with enforcement of relevant acts, policies and guidelines.




Level of noise in Dhaka city is now a major concern for the general people because it has exceeded the tolerance level. According to a recent study conducted by WHO at 45 locations of Dhaka city, most of the traffic points and many of the industrial, residential, commercial, silent and mixed areas are suffering noises exceeding the standard limits of Bangladesh.


Table 3.15. Noise Level in Silent Zone of Dhaka City


Name of Areas 1999 (dB) 2002 (dB)
I.C.D.D.R.B Hospital 76.5 65.0
Dhaka Medical College Hospital 70.0 70.0
Kakrail Mosque 70.0 70.0
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Medical College 68.9 69.0
Shaheen School 67.6 58.0
Titumir College 66.8 66.8
Temple and Church 65.5 85.3
I.P.H. Mosque 60.0 55.0
Dhakeswari Mandir at Bakshi Bazar 53.0 53.0
NIPSOM 50.0 57.0
Standard Limit for Bangladesh 50 50

Source:WHO, 2002

WHO found noise levels of 70 dB in Dhaka Medical College, 75 dB in Shakaripatti, 90 dB in English Road, 87.8 dB in Rajuk Avenue and 85 dB in Tejgaon, though the standard limit for those area are 50,55,60,70 and 75 dB respectively. WHO has also identified several areas as severe red, moderate red, mild red and green zones in terms of noise pollution in Dhaka City. These are mainly due to vehicular horns and movement, loudspeakers from processions and meetings, high volume of audio players from roadside small business enterprises and others (photo 3.4). Another study was conducted in 1999 in the same areas, which had also showed almost similar findings. The noise scenarios of Dhaka city, in fact, show an extreme threat to human health, especially for elderly people and children. Moreover, the traffic personnel, rickshaw pullers, open vehicle drivers, road side workers, small scale business enterprise workers etc are exposed for long-term noise pollution which might cause severe mental and physical health problems. Details of the noise level of different zones of Dhaka city are shown in Table 3.15 to 3.20 indicates the exceeding limits of sound.


Table 3.20. Average noise level of different land use categories in Dhaka City in 1999 and 2002

Location 1999 (dB) 2002 (dB) Standard Limit for Bangladesh (dB) Day-Time
Silent Area 64.8 64.9 50
Residential Area 70.5 64.9 55
Mix Area 84.3 81.6 60
Commercial Area 86.5 84.0 70
Industrial Area 85.6 83.0 75

Source: WHO, 2002


Nearly 0.3 million of motor vehicles and over 0.4 million of non-motorized vehicles are plying the roads and streets of the city. These vehicles on limited road surface cause extreme traffic congestion, especially near the bus terminals and bus stops within the city. Many of the major roads, lanes and by-lanes remain damaged all year around which causes collision of vehicles and high levels of noise. Following are the details of noise sources of Dhaka:


Vehicular horns


Due to traffic jams on the roads of Dhaka city, most of the vehicles use their horn constantly, which is extremely harmful to human health, especially for children. The World Health Organization (WHO) opines that 60 decibels of sound can make a person deaf (The Daily Bangladesh Observer, 9 April, 2004). The noise level of Dhaka is more than the noise quality standard.

The WHO study already identified eight areas in Dhaka city as severe red oxnes and ten areas as moderate red zone for noise pollution of which Mahakhali, Gabtoli, and Sayedabad bus terminals are on the top for extreme noise pollution. Moreover, due to lack of awareness and inefficiency in driving, many drivers use the horn unnecessarily that increases sound level in the proximity. The practical situation is very severe in the mornings near any primary of secondary school. The drivers constantly blow their horns, which directly expose the students to high level of sound. Many vehicles with very old engines ply on the city streets that sometimes create more noise than the horns. However, proper enforcement of the following policies, acts and guidelines may able to address the noise hazards in the city.


Environment Policy 1992


Environment Conservation Act 1995


Environment Conservation Rules 1997


EIA guidelines for industries to control the noise pollution of the city


Besides the above-mentioned policies, acts and rules, recently the government has taken some action to control noise level in the city. Some of these initiatives are as follows:

  • Formulation of Noise Control Rules, 2044
  • Banning vehicular hydraulic horns
  • Monitoring mechanism at the main traffic points to determine whether the vehicles follow the orders or not
  • Removal of 4000 nos. of hydraulic horns by the DMP from the vehicles plying on the city street
  • Tejgaon truck terminal would be relocated to a nearby place belonging to the Bangladesh Railway, which might save large parts of Tejgaon and Kawranbazar from severe traffic congestion and hence noise pollution
  • The decision to relocate the Gabtoli, Saidabad, Armanitola and Mohammadpur truck terminals has also been taken which would reduce the noise level in those areas
  • The decision has been made to relocate most of the bus stops, demolish passenger sheds and build new ones at suitable places.


Industrial Operation


A large number of industries are located in three specific areas, though some are sited in a scattered manner in different parts of the city. Tejgaon and Hazaribagh are the major industrial areas of the city, which are identified as red zone for noise pollution. In fact, all these industrial sites are located very close to the major roads of the city. So throughout the day, transport noise and the noise of industries usually occur together.In Tejgaon industrial area, the sound level was found 87 dB in 1999 and 84 dB in 2002, which shows that the sound level exceeded the standards by more than 10dB in just 3 years. In Hazaribagh, the noise level was measured to be 80.8 dB in 1999 and 80 dB in 2002; both had exceeded the standards. It has been reported that about 16000 people work in the Hazaribagh tannery industries with continuous exposure to chemicals and noise. Besides the workers, many nearby residents, professionals, school children, and medical patients are also highly exposed to this combined noise effect of industry and transport vehicles. However, the industries of the city may be compelled to comply with the above policies and guidelines with a view to reducing the noise level. Enforcement and monitoring on industrial operation is also needed on an emergency basis.


Construction and repair Activities


The rapid urbanization, economic development and utility management of the city include construction and reconstruction of residential buildings, commercial buildings, roads and highways (Photo 3.13). All these development activities require brick grinding machines, forklifts, metal equipments, and generators etc. that create huge amount of noise during their operation. These activities have tremendously increased in last few years in the city. Besides these, there a large number of metal workshops on the roadsides, which use metal instruments for cutting and shaping, as necessary. The continuous hammering activities have extreme effect on everyday life and can cause mental disorder in the people living in close proximity of the sound. Enforcing the above rules and policies should control such noise.


Use of Loudspeakers and Microphones


The most uncomfortable situation for city dwellers arise when the use of loudspeakers in the shops and markets and microphones for political processions, meetings, picnic parties, lottery ticket selling etc goes beyond human tolerance. Such nuisance and unnecessary use of microphones and loudspeakers are observed mainly in the daytime all over the city, which seriously bother the city dwellers. Students can hardly concentrate in their studies due to the regular blare of microphones in some areas of Dhaka city. Most of the commercial and administrative areas including Motijheel, Farmgate, and Rajuk Avenue exceeded the standard limit (WHO, 1999 & 2002). Motijheel and Farmgate were identified as red zones in terms of noise pollution due to the loudspeakers used for selling lottery tickets, for political, social, and processions. Such tremendous levels of noises disturb the people in those areas and may also cause mental and physical illness. The health section of the Environment Policy of 1992 strictly states the need for developing healthy environment for urban areas to ensure healthy workplace for workers (BELA, 1996). Recently promulgated ‘Noise Rules’ may be used to address this situation.

Vehicular movements on uneven/bumpy road surface


Most of the city road surface including major roads, link roads, and lanes and by-lanes are not smooth or clean enough for efficient transportation. Moreover, most of the city roads are frequently dug up for construction activities by the different utility services, and in many cases, the reconstruction job of the road is not properly completed. As a result, the road surfaces become uneven, patchy and bumpy, which in turn causes continuous friction with running vehicles. Following are the necessary actions required to overcome the situation:

  • Effective coordination between relevant organizations
  • Completion of assigned construction or reconstruction of roads activities
  • Frequent digging up of roads

Road surface should be smooth and even otherwise it cause noise and accidents too. Continuous bumping on uneven road surface also reduces longevity of the vehicles.


Environmental Health


Rapid urbanization, economic activities and development as well as population growth in the last decades have changed the physical environment condition of Dhaka, degraded the city environment through over exploitation or utilization, and the mismanagement of its environmental components. The city environment now is far from the ideal due to many factors and issues that primarily originate from human activities and lifestyle. These factors may be psychological (e.g. stress, human relationship etc.), biological (e.g. bacteria, viruses, parasites etc), chemical (e.g. chemicals for chemical compounds, dust etc.), and physical (e.g. noise, climate, workload etc.). There are many types of air pollutants (Carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, ozone, lead, VOCs, Methane and SPM) present in both ambient and indoor air of the city. Though the ambient air quality has improved a bit since the late 1990s with policy decision and drastic actions of the government, but still the indoor air situation is highly hazardous, especially in the slums and squatter settlements. As mentioned earlier, the concentration of SPM in the indoor air of slums is 4040 to 18586 micrograms per cubic meter, which is much higher than the standards (WHO, 2002). Besides air pollution, noise and contamination of both surface and groundwater threaten human health. Some of the areas of Dhaka city are recognized as pollution zones. Figure 3.4 presents pollution zone of Dhaka city. The following are the major environmental health concerns for Dhaka city that adversely affect human health.


Air pollution and Human Health


The recent government initiatives have reduced concentration of air pollutants but some pollutants like SPM, Ozone, Oxides of Nitrogen, VOCs are still on the higher level particularly in the dry season. Moreover, the size of the population exposed to concentrations of SPM, O3 and NOx has tremendously increased in the last few years due to excessive growth of population.


The above might be the reason of increased suffering and deaths by respiratory infections, asthma, pneumonia etc. The shocking truth is that the poor, elderly people and children suffer more from these diseases. All these complications become more acute during the dry season. According to the Dhaka Shishu

Hospital (DSH), at least 15-20 patients/day come with pneumonia from November to January (dry season) while the number is less than half during other seasons. Nearly 48.62% of the total patients were found to have respiratory problems or symptoms in the period from July 2003 to December 2003, whereas the record of the same hospital shows that the percentage of patients with acute respiratory infections was 56 in 2000. Bangladesh accounts for about 120,000 deaths, including children, every year of which Dhaka city alone may account for the larger part (Dana-2002 Report of the WHO also shows that nearly 120,000 children die every year due to respiratory problems in the country (Dana, 2002). Most of these patients may be severely exposed to SPM.


Safe drinking water, sanitation and health


As mentioned earlier that 9 millions of people of Dhaka city living in slums and squatters suffer from inadequate safe drinking water and sanitation services. This situation worsens during monsoon season all over the city causing the spread of a number of water borne diseases like.

  • Diarrhea
  • Dysentery
  • Skin disease
  • Fever

In fact, poor people living in the slums and squatters are most affected due to lack of utility services. Due to lack of safe water and sanitation facility, sufferings will increase unless the surface water is managed properly.


Water Pollution


Water is called life due to its most vital role in human existence and sustainability. Water covers 75% of the planet though 97% of it belongs to the seas and oceans. The rest 3% is fresh water of which only 0.1% is available to us in the lakes, streams, and soil moisture and as exploitable ground water (WHO, 2002). This valuable resource should be maintained with care and efficient management systems but unfortunately, the surface water of Dhaka City is seriously polluted due to-

  • Untreated industrial waste: Nearly 100000 m3 of industrial waste is disposed off in the surrounding river system
  • Huge amount of sewage
  • Solid waste disposal
  • Large amount of pesticides and agricultural residue washed out to the rivers.


None of the lakes and water bodies is excluded from being polluted. Groundwater may also widely be polluted soon through recharge from of this poor quality of surface water. These scenarios ultimately threaten the aquatic biodiversity, human health and everything that has direct involvement with these water bodies. A large number of people suffer from skin and intestinal diseases particularly in dry season due to use of polluted water for irrigation and domestic purposes. Moreover, treated supply water is also of low quality and is becoming unsafe due to the presence of microbes.


Increasing occupational health risks


Most of the industrial and solid waste workers do not have the opportunity to take precautionary measures when on duty. Rickshaw pullers, traffic police and open vehicle drivers are also exposed to air pollutants and noise hazards. Many children work in battery and tannery industries of the city of exposure to Pb, which might cause neurological disorders leading to disabilities. According to a study by SEHD, morbidity rate of tannery workers is 893.85/1000 whereas the average morbidity rate for Bangladesh is 150.92/1000.Existing policies and interventions are very poor in addressing occupational health hazards and safety. The government needs to prepare an Occupational Health and Safety Rule/Policy or guideline to reduce disability, morbidity and maybe mortality as well. Monitoring programme on industrial operation within Dhaka city would reduce occupational health risk, as well as violation of environmental laws.


Unhygienic food


Open air food selling is common in the roadsides of thickly populated areas. Most of these food items are either adulterated or of sub-standard. Kitchens of roadside restaurants are not maintained sanitarily and so diarrhea, dysentery, acidity etc. are common diseases suffered by the low-income group city dwellers. The poor are not the only victims of adulterated food items, but others are also suffering through the consumption of fruits ripened using chemical compounds like calcium carbide, ethanol and preserving agents like dicthen, formalin etc.




The city dwellers also suffer from other diseases, which may be directly or indirectly linked to environment sources. Open manholes, leaky sewerage lines and unhygienic lifestyle may cause many microbial and vector borne diseases. The city is facing dengue outbreaks every year since 2000. Figure 3.5 shows dengue infection in Dhaka city from 2000 to 2004.


DCC is inadequately prepared to actively combat the mosquito’s problem that cause diseases like dengue and malaria. Even though the incidence of dengue fever has decreased, the mosquito problem prevails. The government must take the initiative to clean up the city otherwise more problems may occur in future.


Solid Waste Management


Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) holds the official responsibility for collection, transportation and final disposal everyday solid waste generated within its service area. DCC divided its area into 10 zones for management of solid waste generated in the domestic, commercial, industrial and medical sectors. The total solid waste management involves 3 departments namely Conservancy, Transport and Mechanical Engineering for smooth and easy operation with specific functions- firstly, removal of refuse from the public streets/drains; secondly, collection, transportation and disposal of refuse; thirdly, providing dustbins and other receptacles for accumulation of solid waste. The conservancy department currently holds 370 trucks and container carriers, 4920 bin/container and 300 handcarts. It is supported by 7156 cleaners/sweepers and 190 supervising transports, for all desired activities (DCC, 2004). A number of studies were undertaken from time to time by the World Bank, Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies (BCAS), Japan International Cooperation Agency and DCC itself for assessment of waste generation. JICA has prepared “Clean Dhaka Master Plan” that will address solid waste management of Dhaka city.

According to a World Bank report, the solid waste generation of Dhaka Metropolitan area (360 sq km) in 1998 was 3944 tons/day (WB 1998a in BCAS, 2003). Report of “Solid Waste Management Project” of DCC prepared by JICA and DCC experts in 2000 shows that the metropolitan area of the city generates 4750 tons of solid waste everyday. Another report stated that the waste generation of DCC area was no less than 3700 tons per day.DCC and some other reports state that the waste generation of DCC is about 4000 to 5000 tons/day (personal communication and The Daily Star, 21 June,2004). On the other hand, JICA team of “Clean Dhaka Master Plan” found the existing solid waste generation (dry season) within Dhaka City Corporation area to be 3340 tons/day, will increase to 4600-5100 tons/day in 2015 (JICA, 2004). The team also mentioned that the waste generation would be a little higher during the summer when fruits are available abundantly, which may result in 3500 tons of average waste generation per day (JICA, 2004). Of the total waste produced, nearly 20% is used for recovery and recycling and about 37% remains scattered lying around on roadsides, open spaces or in drains. It should be noted that JICA’s study was limited to 131-km2 area of the city whereas DCC’s solid waste management service area is 276 km2 (JICA, 2004). Depending on the above reports and JICA’s findings, it may assume a mid-figure of about 4000 tons of solid waste generation within the DCC area everyday. These wastes are deposited together in the same primary depots from where about 45% is finally disposed of either by the DCC or community Based Organizations (CBOs) in the open landfill sites at Matuail near Jatrabari, Beribadh in Mirpur and in Uttara.


Residential and Commercial Waste


Residential and commercial sources produce most of the total municipal waste. The JICA study shows 63% (2120 tons/d) of the total waste (3340) is from residential sources while another project of the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) estimated that it is 49.08%. Other sources, for example commercial and industrial waste volume is not specified clearly in JICA’s “Clean Dhaka Master Plan” study but according to DCC and some other recent studies, commercial waste generation is no less than 20% of the total.

Inadequacy of Collection


A major part of the solid waste of the DCC remains uncollected. This uncollected waste mostly remains in bins, temporary roadside depots, and open spaces or street sides ( photo 3.5), causing a number of problems:

  • Uncollected waste occupy huge spaces of the city streets causing traffic congestion
  • Aerosols and dusts can spread microbes from uncollected and decomposing wastes
  • Waste that is disposed of here and there and not collected properly can cause severe aesthetic nuisance in terms of smell and appearance.
  • Uncollected waste may produce dirty water that mixes up with nearby water bodies and degrade water quality
  • Uncollected waste creates discomfort to pedestrians, particularly the children and aged people.


Hazardous items like broken glass, razor blades and explosive containers may pose health risks especially on that population who partially live off the waste disposal sites. In fact, a number of people collect food items or things for reuse from the uncollected wastes or even from final waste disposal sites.Large quantities of solid waste remain on the street everyday in the residential, commercial and industrial areas. This causes bad odor, which is very uncomfortable for pedestrians and local people. The school-going children face problems due to the temporary roadside waste depots, especially in the old town, that may have already lost its load capacity.The DCC is still quite unable to keep up its utility services due to its budget constraints and lack of other resources. The conservancy tax revenue of the DCC is lower than its expenditure, which is the main reason behind inadequate solid waste collection and management. It was found that the DCC spent 476 million taka in 2002-03 for solid waste management, while the conservancy tax revenue was only 146 million taka. Expenditure on SWM has increased in last few years but the gap between expenditure and tax revenue remained high.The DCC is also unable to collect and dispose of all solid wastes due to rapid increase of population and waste everyday. On the other hand, many transport vehicles and equipment are not used daily, which also results in the low level of waste collection. The DCC, however, engaged a large number of NGOs, CBOs and private companies for municipal solid waste collection, disposal and recycling activities. Of them, 47 have started working recently in 57 out of 130 wards (JICA, 2004). Such organizations charge people in the range of Tk. 10 to 1000/household, based on locality and level of income. There are a number of laws and policies, for example, the Dhaka City Municipal Ordinance, 1983; National Environment Management Action Plan (NEMAP, 1995-2005); Urban Management Policy Statement, 1998; National Policy for Water Supply and Sanitation, 1998; enforcement of which will enhance solid waste management in the city. However, a separate policy or regulation for solid waste management may be considered.

Management of solid waste landfill sites


According to the CDMP of JICA, the DCC currently disposes of about 44% of the total generated waste (3340 tons/day) at 3 landfill sites located at Matuali (20ha), Beri Bund (2 ha) and Uttara (1 ha). Matuail receives 65% of  the total disposal volume, Beri Bund and Uttara receive 30% and 5%, respectively. All these landfill sites are open, with no gas collection system or leachate treatment technology. The Beri Bund Landfill is very close to the Buriganga River. Matuail, the major landfill site is located within 1 km of residential areas (for example Jatrabari, Jurain). Actually, most of the abandoned landfill sites are also close to residential areas. Many of the households and even individuals do not dispose of their waste properly in the bin or roadside container. On the other hand, none of the municipal waste workers or even community workers takes safety measures during performing their duty. The Municipal authority is also very negligent in this regard, due to its management constraints, particularly financial and technical. Slum housings are very compacted and usually remain beyond the collection system. Improper solid waste management causes the following problems.

  • Degradation of air quality with emission from open landfill sites
  • Creation of extreme discomfort to nearby residents(e.g. bad odor, flies)
  • Aggravates surface water pollution
  • Ground water pollution
  • Surface soil contamination
  • Microbial breeding ground
  • Induces and aggravates health disorders (long-term exposure to chemical agents, for example, benzene may cause cancer).


The authority suffers for a number of limitations as regards proper management of solid waste of Dhaka City. These are;


  • Budget constraints (inadequate fund)
  • Inadequate supervision of municipal waste collection and disposal
  • Inefficient work force for waste collection, transportation and disposal
  • Lack of logistic support, for example, man power, transport vehicles, equipment
  • Absence of primary segregation of solid waste
  • No official record of waste measuring, collecting and disposing data/information
  • Lack of efficiency in maintaining time-schedule for waste collection, transportation and disposal
  • Professional negligence
  • Lack of transparency and accountability
  • Dysfunction of transport and mechanical support


The DCC has recently established a Solid Waste Coordination Cell to improve the present management and system of collection. A pilot project was initiated in Rampura (Ward-22) to create awareness among the people about proper management of solid waste of Dhaka city through stakeholder participation. Waste Concern also initiated a waste treatment plan with financial support from the DCC and the UNDP. The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has prepared national Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Strategy 2004  that addresses the waste related issues. Under the strategy, the emissions from landfill sites would be used to generate electricity. However, solid waste should be managed in a sanitary manner, otherwise the above-mentioned problems will aggravate further.


Inadequate solid waste management


Many slums and squatters do not have access to solid waste management service from DCC or CBOs and NGOs. Due to lack of this utility service, large volumes of domestic waste of the slums and squatters remain uncollected. A recent report indicated that 91% of the total slum dwellers dispose of their waste into low-lying lands, near railway tracks, drains, and canals, on the streets or open spaces. Dumping of solid waste into such places is increasing with unabated rural to urban migration of low income group of people which poses a real threat to the city environment and causing the following problems.

  • Inadequate service results in waste dumping in drains, which result in the overflow and blockage of the drainage system
  • Continuous illegal dumping is reducing open spaces of the city
  • Surface water pollution is aggravated due to direct dumping from nearby slums and squatters
  • Disappearance of a number of small water bodies of the city may be due to continuous waste dumping
  • Health hazards for waste disposal workers and residents living near the dumps.


The government had banned polythene bags (Box 3.7) in January 2002, which has reduced associated problems and risks, particularly solid waste generation and clogging in drainage system. The city authority realized the gravity of the situation and therefore approved of a number of CBOs, NGOs and private organization participating in waste collection and disposal. As mentioned earlier, these organizations are working in many areas of the city including Gulshan, Banani, and Uttara. Besides the initiative of the DCC, there are a few other programmes undertaken for better management of solid waste. The noteworthy initiatives are as follows.


  • UNICEF’s Support for Urban Basic Services Delivery
  • ADB’s Primary Health Care Project
  • UNDP’s Local Initiative for Environment, Life (Local Initiatives Facility for Environment)
  • Kitakyushu Initiative
  • “Urban Solid Waste Management Handling Rules of Bangladesh” is being prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) with support from UNDP


The solid waste management services should be available to a satisfactory level for all households in the city for the protection of the city’s natural resources and environment. In fact, it is the millions of low-income group of people living in slums and squatters that support this city in the transport, industrial sectors, particularly garments, and municipal conservancy service. Many of them are unable to work regularly due to illness caused by microbial diseases. This is likely to increase in future and might have adverse impact on socioeconomic development unless immediate interventions take place for proper and adequate SWM service.


Industrial Waste


There are 3 designated industrial zones within the city corporation area, viz. Hazaribagh, Tejgaon and Shyampur. Different types of industries including tannery, dyeing and textile, printing, metals rubber, chemicals and pesticides, battery, distillery, plastics, brick manufacturing, jute etc are a few mentionable ones. A number of industries and factories are also there scattered around the city. In addition nearly 2500 garments industries have been established within the city area in the last 20 years. A few studies were conducted at different times on solid waste generation from different sources, including industry and factory. A study conducted by the DCC in 1999 shows industrial contribution of solid waste in the city is 835 tons/day, which is 23.65% of the total waste (DCC, 1999). Another report prepared by JICA in 2000 shows industrial solid waste generation in Dhaka city to be no less than 1150 tons/day, 24.21% of the total 4750 tons/day. On the other hand, JICA’s recent study, which was limited to an area of 131 km2 records only 200 tons of solid waste generation in the industries and factories. Most part of the industrial wastes is disposed of into municipal bins or containers. The rest of the industrial solid waste, not collected from the factories or bins, directly or indirectly goes into the nearby water bodies. The waste that flows into the water bodies also includes nearly 50,000 m3 of untreated liquid waste. In fact none of the industries has any primary segregation activity for solid waste in place. The huge amount of potentially harmful industrial waste from tannery, textile and dyeing, chemical, soap and battery factories containing hazardous elements are disposed of together with domestic and commercial wastes. This causes significant health threats to waste pickers, municipal, workers, recycle and reuse workers, nearby residents and even pedestrians. Municipal waste management workers might even get cancer in future due to long-term exposure to these chemical and hazardous wastes. Workers in the tannery and dyeing industries get sick frequently. Long-term accumulation of tannery waste on the ground may also reduce surface soil quality. Some of these chemicals may accumulate in fish, food or crop when water from these sources is used. These are attributed to lack of;

  • Enforcement of relevant policies, rules and regulations
  • Awareness of factory owners and workers
  • Transparency and accountability of relevant workers and officials
  • Occupational health and safety rules
  • Industrial waste management guideline/policy


There are sufficient laws and rules of compliance which can address industrial waste management (JICA,2004), and key ones are as follows.


  • Environment Conservation Rules of 1997
  • Environment Management Plan
  • Pollution Effect Abatement Plan
  • Emergency Plan for Adverse
  • Environmental Impact and
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Plans


The government has recently taken an initiative to relocate tannery industries from Hazaribagh to Savar, in the extreme west of Dhaka Statistical Metropolitan Area (DSMA). This may reduce both industrial waste generation and occupational health risks. Awareness of industry owners and workers, and enforcement of existing policies are an immediate requirement. Industrial waste management guideline should be formulated urgently to manage waste through 3R process (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), otherwise occupational health risk will increase and industrial performance and product quality will also be hampered.



Medical Waste


According to a number of recent reports on solid waste management and health care waste management, all the hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centers together generate about 200 tons/day of waste, of which 40 tons are infectious. The recent study of JICA found 722 government and private hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centers within the 131 km2 of the DCC. In fact, the number would be no less than 1000 if doctor’s chambers were included since they also generate waste, but none of the above reports included them. Except ICDDRB, hardly any other medical center has proper waste management system in place. This generates a number of problems that are given below:


  • A major portion of the infectious waste may remain uncollected posing severe health risks for doctors, nurses and responsible medical waste workers, municipal waste workers and NGO/CBO workers
  • Hazardous waste may get absorbed into groundwater aquifers from both temporary and permanent landfill sites, polluting ground water
  • Contamination of air may take place through chemical and radioactive wastes. Nearby residents, scavengers and general people are also exposed to chemical waste containing carcinogenic agents
  • Dumping of hazardous wastes into water bodies degrades its quality and threatens aquatic ecosystem
  • Medical waste may reduce soil quality due to improper dumping
  • “A recent study determined that the health care waste handlers are comparatively at higher risks than municipal waste workers and sweepers in Dhaka city.

The government and a few non-government organizations, particularly Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies (BCAS), Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), International Center for Diarrhea Disease and Research of Bangladesh (ICDDRB), Waste Concern etc have taken initiatives at different times for creating awareness among the medical professionals about medical waste and its safe handling and disposal, and development of environment friendly medical waste management systems. At present, the following things are lacking to address medical waste in the city.


  • Legal requirement
  • Awareness about medical waste and its consequences
  • Professional ethics
  • Technical efficiency
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Enforcement of existing relevant policies, rules and regulations;


Occupational health risks will increase unless the medical centers that include hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic centers and doctors chambers of Dhaka city manage their hazardous and infectious waste in a safe and sanitary manner. Department of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has recently developed a manual on hospital waste management in 2001. Besides guidelines, the Department of Environment has recommended guidelines/ rules to include environmental aspects in the “Ministry of Health and Family Planning Clinic Act 1999”. A very recent initiative was the “SAARC Workshop on Solid Waste Management” held during 10-12 October 2004 in Dhaka. The Ministry of Environment and Forest organized this with financial support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the SAARC Secretariat. This workshop recommended that hospital waste should be treated as special waste and managed separately. Recently, a roundtable meeting was jointly organized by Monwara Hospital and the Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh (FEJB) to discuss improvement of existing situation of hospital waste management (The Bangladesh Observer, 11 December 2004). However, an effective specific policy or guideline should be formulated for better management of medical waste immediately; otherwise the situation will further deteriorate adversely impacting socioeconomic development as well.


Sewerage Management


Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (LGED) is presently responsible for operation and maintenance of the sewerage system and sewage treatment plants, the total sewerage management, and supply of drinking water within the defined area of Dhaka city.


Sewerage System of Dhaka City


There exist six WASA zones in Dhaka city for this crucial utility service. Zones 1 and 2 mainly cover the southern part of Dhaka (Hazaribagh, Lalbagh, Sutrapur, Motijheel, Shampur), Zone 3 the western side (Dhanmondi and Mohammadpur), Zone 4 the northern part (Kallyanpur, Agargaon and Mirpur), Zone 5 covers partly central and north-east Dhaka (Tejgaon, Gulshan, Baridhara, Uttara) and lastly Zone 6 covers eastern and central parts of Dhaka (Khilgaon,Shabujbag, Ramna). According to WASA, the existing sewerage system holds 49803 sewer connections, 26 sewage lift stations and 785.82 km long sewers (WASA, 2004). The length of the sewer lines varies in different zones with the maximum in Zone 1 that holds 168 km and minimum in Zone 5 that covers 88 km. The size of the sewer line also varies from 4 inches to 72 inches in diameter. However, the area and the type of current sanitation coverage of Dhaka city are as follows (personal communication and The Daily Star, 13 July, 2003).

  • Conventional water borne sewerage system (30%)
  • Separate sewerage system (20%)
  • Septic tank (11%)
  • Pit sanitation (18%)


Sewage Treatment Plant

DWASA operates a sewage treatment plant a Pagla, namely Pagla Sewage Treatment Plant (PSTP) that treats wastewater of millions of people of Dhaka city. The capacity of this treatment plant is only 0.12 million m3, while the total sewage generated by the city, as estimated by DWASA, is about 1.3 million m3. However, the following are the current flagrant concerns that require immediate consideration by the policy markets for environmental sustainability of the city.

Damage of Sewerage System

A recent study by JICA on the sewerage system reveals that Dhaka city sewerage suffer from extreme improper management and operation. Many points of the sewerage network are extensively damaged, for example, the sewerage lines from Tejgaon to Pagla either have leakages or are broken (The Daily Star, 13 July, 2003). Many areas of Dhaka, particularly the southern part (old city), are home to very unhygienic conditions due to broken and damaged sewerage lines. Open and Lidless manholes are a common phenomenon in most areas of the city. These areas regularly experience overflow of sewerage lines, drains and manholes that makes the surrounding environment unhealthy with bad odor and contamination of air and water. WASA has already found microbial contamination of ground water in old Dhaka (WASA, 2003). Also, road transportation and communication become slow and risky due to broken manholes or sewerage lines. Open manholes are also a hazard as there are regular occurrences of people, especially children and old people, falling through the manhole or damaged open sewerage ducts, which sometimes results in death. Moreover, the sewage runoff becomes a nuisance during the flood and in the rainy season, particularly in the eastern and old parts of Dhaka. The overflow of sewage occurs due to the following reasons.

  • Damaged sewerage lines/man-holes (leakage, blocked, broken)
  • Ineffective design of existing sewerage system (e.g. gradient of lines)
  • Lack of sewerage system rehabilitation
  • Inadequate monitoring of sewerage lines and man-holes
  • Many pipes are smaller than required in diameter
  • Excessive flow of sewage from real estate developments/apartment buildings overloads the system which had not been designed to accommodate the current increased sewage flow
  • Lack of proper management and operation of both sewerage system and sewage treatment plant

The following further compounds the above-mentioned problems:

  • Natural disaster (e.g. flood)
  • Excessive population
  • Management constraints (e.g. financial lacking)
  • Lack of transparency and accountability

The government and International organizations (for example World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency) have taken several initiatives for improving the sanitation services in Dhaka city. Messrs McDonald & Partners did the first study on sanitation services of Dhaka city in 1990. The 3rd Dhaka Water Supply Project has repaired some damaged lines and also extended the system (WB, 1996). The World Bank completed a feasibility study on improved sanitation services in South Dhaka in 1996 as part of 4th Dhaka Water Supply Project. According to a recent report, WASA has cleared 474 major sewer line blockages out of 479. The report also identified maximum blockages occurring in Zones 1 and 2 (old Dhaka). In fact, the occurrence of damage to sewerage lines has been gradually increasing in all over the city. So, the sustainability of the city environment in term of sewerage management is under severe threat due to the increasing growth of population (especially low income group), in a limited area and lack of utility service capacity particularly sanitation. The government might need a detailed study on the existing sewerage system throughout its servicing area. This study must identify the current sewerage lines gradient and its sustainability, reason of damage, blockage and then look for immediate solutions after rigorous assessment of wastewater-associated problems. There is a significant risk of extensively polluting ground water resources with microbial contaminations from damaged sewerage lines. If it occurs widely then life will be really difficult to continue.

Table 3.21. Sewerage system and sewage scenario of Dhaka city in different year



line (km)



















Lack of proper treatment (m3)






















1.15 million











1.25 million

Lack of sewerage service and sewage treatment facility

It is mentioned earlier that over three million people live in about 3007 slums in Dhaka city. None of them receive any proper sanitation service from the relevant authority. They construct hanging toilets on low-lying land or on water bodies (for example on lake, river). It has been estimated that less than 5% of the total sewage of Dhaka city is treated in PSTP everyday. A large quantity of the rest remains untreated and gets discharged to the surrounding water bodies, particularly the lakes and river systems in Dhaka. This untreated sewage disposal may be one of the reasons for the deteriorating water quality of the city, the Buriganga and other surrounding rivers. In fact, the sewage generation is increasing with increase of population growth but sewage treatment capacity or actual treatment at PSTP remains the same. Table 3.21 shows development of sewerage system over time. In addition, both solid and human waste discharge into the surrounding water bodies is causing the following problems.

  • Deterioration of surface water quality
  • Loss of fishes and aquatic organisms
  • Surface water inappropriate for industrial, commercial, agricultural and domestic use
  • Microbial contamination
  • Threat to human health
  • Reduction in quality of industrial and bakery products


WASA also proposed four sewage treatment plants to provide service to the following areas of Dhaka city:


  • Extreme north: Tongi
  • Northeast: Uttara and Baridhara
  • Northwest: DOHS and Mirpur
  • Southwest: Kamrangirchar


A recent study of JICA on North Dhaka Sewerage System identified the need of at least 3 sewage treatment plants to treat the existing wastewater generated. The PSTP was recently upgraded and the lift stations were also rehabilitated with financial support of JICA (WB, 1996). The chronic depletion of ground water level of Dhaka city is bound to make us think of protecting the surrounding areas of surface water bodies, even though the rivers Balu, Buriganga and Turag are already polluted. If the Shitalakhkhya also gets polluted, WASA might have to find other sources of surface water, which should be far away from the city.


Slums and Squatters


Slums and squatters are the informal settlements of Dhaka city that accommodate the low-income group of people. According to a study conducted by Center for Urban Studies (CUS), the total number of slums and squatters in DCC area in 1988 was 1125 with a population of about 1 million. Another study done by the same organization in 1996 found that the number of slums and squatters has increased to 3007 with 1.5 million populations. Based on an estimation of experts of the Housing and Settlement Directorate and other recent reports, it may be said that the existing slums and squatters of Dhaka city accommodate no less than 4 million people. This population helps to keep the city alive, by working and supporting various sectors, particularly transport, industry, factory, domestic, utility service, business establishments, small shops, super markets, petty trading, etc. These are the people who take the low level jobs and live in informal settlements under terrible conditions. The population of this low-income group is still increasing in the city, in spite of the number of limitations in the slums and squatters.

Lack of water supply and sanitation facility


About 4 million people live in slums and squatters of Dhaka city with very little utility service. Water supply has improved a bit, but sanitation service is still very poor and does not meet the requirements of this huge population. Only 55% of the poor households currently receive tap water. Another report states that less than 40% of the slum dwellers have access to safe drinking water. On the other hand, none of the slums get proper sewerage services from WASA and only 9% of this population manages to get solid waste management services. As a result, both household waste and human generated wastes go directly of indirectly into the low-lying lands, open spaces or water bodies of the city and causes a number of problems. Moreover, inadequate safe drinking water in slums and squatters causes many problems, which are as follows;


  • Unsanitary lifestyle
  • Inadequate access to safe drinking water
  • Increased health risks;


The city authority, NGOs and community participation together can not meet the required supply of water and sanitation services in the slums due to the following reasons.


  • Excessive continuous growth of slum population
  • Limitation of resources
  • Excessive demand of water within service area.


  • However, the government, the DCC, and other national and international NGOs are working to provide both water and sanitation facility for this huge number of people living in slums and squatters. The DCC has taken a number of initiatives starting in 1993 to improve the water and sanitary conditions of slums and squatters with regard to the environmental situation of the city.

Inadequate sanitation and scarcity of safe water would adversely impact the environmental resources of the city. Socioeconomic development of the city will also slow down, as the city workers should fall sick more and more frequently.


Land use violation


The city suffers extreme inequality in terms of land use practices. It has been reported that only 30% people of this city shares 80% of the total residential area and the rest 70% of the people’s share only 20% of residential area. However, the first Master Plan of Dhaka suggested that at least 1184 acres of open space be kept in the city for better conditions of the city environment. This has not been possible since huge areas of open spaces have been occupied by slums and squatters and are used for activities like waste disposal. It may be noted that till 1988, the 1125 slums and squatters occupied about 1340 acres of land and this increased to 3007 in 1996. A study found that nearly 2000 people migrated to Dhaka everyday in the early 90’s (GOB, 1993). It is assumed that most of them constructed slums and squatters wherever they found suitable open space (near rail line, bus stops, and parks) to live in. It has been reported that all the thanas of Dhaka Metropolitan Area had slum population, ranging from minimum of 4% of the total in Motijheel and maximum of 46% of the total in Mohammadpur during 1996. However, both slum settlement and population are increasing and open space is being reduced due to the following factors.

  • Rural to urban migration
  • Low paid jobs
  • Increasing living cost in Dhaka city.

The government has recently prepared its Land Use Policy (Draft). Rajdhani Unnayan Kortripakhkhya (RAJUK) holds two documents for sustainable land use and development of Dhaka city, which are as follows.

  • Master Plan for Greater Dhaka, prepared by DIT in 1959
  • Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan, prepared by RAJUK in 1997.


However, addressing this situation, the government, with its own support and sometimes support from development partners like UNDP, has taken several initiatives from 1975 to1986 to resettle/rehabilitate slum dwellers. Many were resettled from different areas in Mirpur. RAJUK rehabilitated people of some areas in Postagola, Gandaria and Badda, allotting lands at a subsidized rate.

However, the city will continue to fail to provide sustainable environmental support to the millions of slum dwellers unless we make efforts to do so through;

  • Enforcement of existing plans and policies
  • A study should be conducted immediately to figure out the existing situation of slums and squatters and proper resettlement in view of the general risks they pose on environment, particularly on land resources of the city
  • Create awareness about the importance of land resources in sustainable environmental development.


Poor housing settlement


All slums and squatters are made of bamboo, thatching material, low quality wood and tin sheets. Most of them hold a single room for the whole family that makes the slums of Dhaka very congested. According to a recent report, population density in slums and squatters ranges from 700 to 4210 per acre, and a minimum of 4 and maximum of 10 people share a room, which is highly congested and unhealthy. This poor housing and lifestyle cause a number of problems for the environment of Dhaka city, which are given below.

  • Indoor pollution
  • Degradation of air quality with frequent slum fires
  • Increase incidence of communicable disease that may spread to city dwellers from the work place.

However, proper housing is very important factor for social and psychological development of children, but the practical situation of all these informal settlements indicates a dreadful life with poor lighting, ventilation, high crowding and living and cooking either close to or at the same place. The government has hardly responded to the problem of poor housing in slums and squatters, though some programmes were taken which addressed health care services. Some international organizations (World Vision, OXFAM, Red Cresent and Concern) also took initiatives to provide health care service for slums and squatters of Dhaka city. Poor housing will worsen the above problems and their consequences, unless this situation is improved considerably.


Biomass fuel burning


Due to lack of energy supply, most of the slums and squatters burn biomass fuel for domestic cooking. If it assumes that at least 2 million people residing in the slums and squatters of Dhaka city burn biomass at a rate of 0.25 kg/day/person, this results in 500 tons of fuel burning in a day. The reality may be a little more or less than the assumption, but the amount is still high. Burning of this huge amount of biomass creates several problems for city environment key of which are as follows.

  • Deterioration of outdoor air quality
  • Reduction of vegetation coverage
  • Indoor air pollution
  • Deterioration of health
  • Slum fire (Box 3.8)

The government may find them alternatives to biomass fuel for slums and squatters considering the above situation. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) can be used in slums for domestic cooking. The government and NGOs together may take this initiative.


Box 3.8. “Slum fires kill 13 in last 14 months”

According to Ain-O-Shalish Kendra (ASK), at least 13 people were killed in 24 fire incidents between January 2003 and March 2004 in Dhaka city.The following points were identified as the possible causes:

  • Hand-made or Kerosene stoves
  • Mosquito coils or cigarette
  • Miscreants

Source: The Daily Star, 5 April, 2005









Others (Unsocial or anti social activity)


Conflict (quarrel, clash, fight) in the slums and squatters is a regular phenomenon. This creates noise and violence that disturbs the city dwellers, particularly the nearby residents, office workers and school children. Besides, many of the slum residents are involved in prostitution, drug trafficking, hijacking, mugging etc. These activities threaten the social and cultural environments of the city. The government should enforce law and order to improve the overall environment of the city through the reduction of anti-social activities.

Natural Disaster

Another environmental concern of Dhaka city is recurring natural disasters, which frequently disrupt and damage government, non-government and personal property, road-transport system, drainage system, water supply system and other utility services network. In fact, the whole physical structure of the city gets damaged having dual impact on economy and development-first, pulling the economic growth backward and second, destruction of property and development. Flood is actually the main natural catastrophic event now days for Dhaka city. Dhaka city experienced heavy floods at least 9 times from 1954 to 2004. Flooding causes huge damages every year, though the flood of 1998 was much more severe than others in terms of extent and duration. However, every time the most impacted group are usually the mid level and the poor people. They lose jobs, housing, domestic property and suffer from water borne diseases etc. Till 1988, the city was totally unprotected from flood disasters that caused huge damages, sufferings and deaths.




A recent report shows that 100% of eastern Dhaka was affected by flood in both 1988 and 1998, western Dhaka was 75% affected in 1988 while it was decreased to 23% in 1998 due to the Dhaka Integrated Flood Protection Project (DIFPP), which was implemented by BWDB and funded by ADB and GOB. In 2004, Dhaka was inundated again due to flow of about 65 to 200cm above the danger level of the surrounding rivers. In July 2004, the highest flow of the Buriganga, Balu, Turag, and Shitalakhkhya was 65, 195, 135,216 cm above the danger level respectively. This overflow of the rivers brought the most part of eastern city under flood water of about 20 to 300 cm causing serious environmental damage key of them are given below.

The DCC’s underground and surface drainage systems are meant for storm water drainage and therefore have nothing to do with sewage overflow. Sewage overflow occurs through DWASA’s domestic sewerage system due to its inadequacy, lack of maintenance and submergence during floods. In Dhaka city, storm water drainage system and domestic sewerage system are separate system, although there are numerous illegal connections of domestic sewage into the storm drains. The major part of storm drainage system is, however, constructed and maintained by DWASA.


Inefficient solid waste management


The solid waste management of Dhaka city becomes horrible during floods, mainly due to water logging of roads and temporary bins. During floods, people of east Dhaka directly dump waste into the floodwater, which accounts for more than fifty percent of the total waste generation of the city.

Road Communication Difficulty


In fact, many of the major roads, link roads, and lanes and by-lanes get inundated with floodwater, which hampers transportation within and around the city area. This greatly damages the road surface, for instance, 400 kilometers of roads were severely damaged during the 1998 flood. The inter-district road transport system also gets disrupted due to flooding of these roads. Many of the roads of east Dhaka experienced inundation of over 100 cm of water during flood that totally blocked the transport system. Due to transportation blockage, many of the private transport business cannot operate their business and vehicles resulting in a large number of job terminations. Floodwater also damages both motorized and non-motorized vehicles.

Crisis of drinking water


One of the most important problems during a flood is the lack of safe drinking water. Most of the reserve tanks of the buildings or houses in affected area are submerged, which results in water crisis. In some cases, where building walls around the tanks protect the reserve tanks, the improper maintenance of the water supply pipe causes the water to become contaminated by the floodwater due to leakages in the pipes.

Quality food crisis


The city people also suffer from fresh food crisis during floods. Due to inundation of roads and highways, food and other agricultural products like vegetable cannot reach the city. This results in crisis of nutritious foods.

Increased incidence of water borne diseases


A flood disaster is an extreme threat to human health, especially that of children. Children and elderly people suffer from diarrhea, skin diseases, dysentery and fever. Large numbers of people die from severe attacks of diarrhea, which usually starts from the mid point to the end stages of flood. According to a report, 82,054 people were affected by diarrhea and approximately 300 people died in 1998 flood. The city is not protected against floodwater on the eastern side of Dhaka that caused most of its inundation in 2004 flood. As mentioned earlier, the city has experienced flood disasters a lot times from 1954 to 2004. But after the serious flood tragedy in 1988, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has played an active role in assisting the Government of Bangladesh in implementing the Flood Action Plan (FAP) and for the better management of existing flood control and drainage infrastructure. The ADB donated $95.4 million for Flood Damage Rehabilitation Project (ADB, 2003). The flood control and irrigation part of the project was implemented by the BWDB. The government has taken decision to construct an eastern bypass, which may protect the city from further flood affection. However, the embankment-cum-road on the western part of Dhaka has greatly helped to protect nearly 50% of the city from the floods of 1998 and 2004. According to past experiences, a large number of national and international NGOs contributed relief and rehabilitation programme after the floods receded. WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, CARE, WATER AID, JICA and many other organizations directly contributed to the flood succor in affected areas, taking part in relief, health care services and providing water supply all over the affected areas of the city. The GOB established Flood Forecasting and Warning Center (FFWC) to reduce the damages and create awareness among the people about the flood situation. The FFWC keeps records and forecasts the water level of major rivers through the Internet and media services. It is, however, essential to implement the DIFPP phase-11 to protect the eastern side of the city. In fact, this would greatly help to protect the city as a whole. Proper drainage system in the city might reduce the duration of flood or even water logging within the city. The drainage blockage causes huge problems during floods. The DCC and DWASA should repair and maintain their existing resources properly for better management; otherwise the city might suffer more if extent and duration of floods are worsening in the future.

Implications to Business


The range of environmental problems discussed above is mostly arisen out of economic activities as production or consumption externalities. Whatever industrialization or commercial activities has happen the issues of ecological environment has not been dealt with due care and attention over the decades. As a result pollution increased tremendously and affected environment, ecology and nature of this heavily populated city.  Discussion in the previous chapters presents some of the most serious ecological concerns and extent of their impact, investigate the economic arguments which reveals how organizations pollute the environment and explore the range of actions which can be taken by the government to monitor and regulate the output of pollutants. Following discussion will focus on how degrading ecology implicate business and how the business is impacted by the government’s pollution   controlling interventions.


Impact of the market place on the environment


Over recent years the basis of much regulation of business activity which has adverse environmental effects has been via market based mechanism. Society has to find a way of resolving the primary economic issues of what to produce and how and for whom to produce it. In many economies these questions are now more commonly being answered by market forces resulting in more industrial activities which cause environmental problem. In the economic term this is called externalities which arise in the production process for a good or service. Externalities occur in public as well as the private sector. Industries may dispose of their waste in a fashion which imposes additional treatment cost on another organization like DCC or WASA. Externalities arise not because the market system has failed to account for all appropriate cost and benefit but because of a lack of reasoning in evaluating governmental program. Another way of viewing externality is to say that they exist when there are significant interactions between the utility functions of individuals, production functions of firms or a combination of production and utility functions which are not recognized by the market mechanism. In short when externalities exists there is a divergence between private returns-those accruing to the direct parties in an economic transactions and the social returns those accrues to the indirect parties in such a transaction. True externalities are effects which are directly conveyed through the price system. Consumption externalities also play a significant role in our societies. Housing pattern, eating habits and dress standards differ widely because the utility functions of consumers and consumption patterns are highly interdependent.

Market force and the environment


By now it is clearly understood that, pollution is the result of economic activity. An organization producing chemical may discharge waste into the river causing fish to die. In this case, the producer while undertaking its normal business has hampered third party’s such as the aquatic life and the fisherman. It has created an external cost i e externality. Organizations do not generally consider the wider social cost or benefits of their business activities. Traffic congestion on the road increases the transportation costs for firms and has direct repercussions on the price of goods in the shops. There are further potentially serious social costs which result from current levels of exhaust emission which is causing health problem. External diseconomies of a production arise when the expansion of a firm’s output result in uncompensated cost or detriments to others. External diseconomies are the real cost of production which until internalized by the firm are escaped. Thus although the associating social cost are not relevant to managerial decision making they always have the potential to become relevant by social conscience of the law. External diseconomies are apparent in all the issues discussed in chapter-3.


Intervention measures to limit the externalities


The extent of pollution is so high that government may not have to let all negative externalities persist. It can intervene in the market by a range of means including adopting policies that use or impose the price mechanism or by employing extra market policies. Government activity in this area may be governed by the polluter pay’s principle. These principle proceeds from notion that the environment has a monetary value and that damage to it should be paid for. The principle entails forcing producers to internalize cost – that is to pay for their pollution. Organization will try to pass on their increased cost to the customer who will then refuse to pay the increased price and consumption of goods will fall. Highly polluting industries may be asked to relocate which will involve extra cost for them. For example tanneries from Hazaribag are being relocated to Savar. Garment industries are also going to be pushed out of Dhaka city. There may be a disincentive for the firms to develop or install new, more environmental friendly equipments. The cost of so doing would be likely to make their price uncompetitive. Taking no action may mean that stricter legislation will be imposed on the industry. A firm may also be forced to pay an indirect tax as most efficient in limiting externalities to the level at which the marginal social benefit from an externality producing activity is equal to the marginal social cost in the form of tax and subsidy. If industry invests in ante pollution measures which will in the short term their tax liability and possibly save their money and/or offer competitive advantage in the long term. Through regulation such as the placing of a legal maximum on the amount of pollution that a business organization can produce it could be prohibited from producing more than the socially efficient level of output.


However, regulation also does cause problems. Firstly, because they are often uniformly applied across industries they may not represent the most cost efficient means of reducing pollution. Regulations however may also promote business activity. Opportunities will flourish in the waste clean up industry giving export opportunities as other countries adopt similar regulations that tends to minimize waste. It can also create new jobs. Environmental standard may be set by the importing countries which may act as a barrier to entry. In a nut shell by forbidding an activity that give rise to an external diseconomy the external diseconomy can be avoided.


Regulation at geo-political scale


Market place is overseen by the government at various geo-political scales from international to local. Increasingly much of the policy relating to environmental issues is taking place at global and regional scale. Nation states often have to give domestic effect to such things as international treaties or directives via legislation and executive actions. For example, Kyoto protocol has put binding on some governments to reduce carbon emission. Accordingly Montréal protocol has imposed on many country to phase out o-zone depleting substance (i e use of CFC gas in refrigerator, inhaler, etc) in 2010 which will create significant impact on our refrigeration and medicine sector. The sum of externalities generated in one economy may assume enormous significance. They help to explain why under developed   countries find it difficult to attract industries from more developed regions where skilled labor, easy excess to well developed financial institutions and supplies are readily available. Likewise the fact is that the market system requires that little or no cost be incurred by those using air and water resources as industrial and municipal sewers expands the increased problem at and concern with environmental quality.


Organizational agenda


A firm may be liable to cause environmental problem and disaster as a direct result of their activities. So they may be imposed of fines, clean up costs etc. Moreover, a bad publicity as a polluter can also have serious effect on the reputation of an organization; rebuilding consumer confidence in such case may be very difficult. Stakeholder’s pressure especially from customers, media and environmentalist group may be acute because consumer’s power is also getting to be influential in respect of products made through unhygienic process. A clear majority of the customers in the city say they are willing to sacrifice some economic growth for environmental protection. As such managers in both the public and private sectors are increasingly faced with decisions which are influenced by the existence of economic externalities. The private manager needs to be aware that economic externalities are often generated by the firm in the normal course of its business, and that these may be at the heart of public criticism directed at the firm. Such awareness allows the firm to consciously consider ways of reducing negative externalities in the normal course of its business, or of emphasizing to the public the positive externalities (social benefits) which the firm generates and for which it is not compensated by the market. Furthermore, the private manager has a strong interest in the kinds of remedies adopted by society (the government) for controlling externalities at the least cost.


The public manager also needs to be aware of the nature and sources of economic externalities. Many public enterprises also generate these effects in the normal course of their activities. When these are negative, appropriate actions must be taken to control the problem. More importantly, perhaps, the full extent of positive externalities should be understood by the public manager, since these benefits often provide the justification for maintaining or expanding a public program. In the role of a regulator, the public manager must understand the scope of remedies available and the strengths and weaknesses of each.


So, the impact of an organization’s emission to air, water and land must be treated in a   holistic way in order to achieve what is known as the best practicable environmental option. Otherwise environmental force may cause serious threat for the organization.


Conclusion and Recommendations


The foregoing discussion leads to a conclusion that when externalities are present the market mechanism is quite likely to fail to achieve an efficient allocation of societal resources. In such instances intervention of some sort or another may be necessary to force firms to internalize negative externalities. But the range of externalities which exists the constraints of our political decision making process, the problem of accurately measuring the costs of any particular externality and existence of transaction costs incurred in applying a particular solution to a particular problem make it impossible to identify any one correct solution to the problem. As a result all environmental resources are declining at different pace and scale. Degradation of environment is posing, among other, significant health threats for the city dwellers. Air, water and land are being continuously degraded with high exposure to chemicals and microbes that directly or indirectly cause numerous sufferings and deaths every year. All these are arising out of economic activities and in turn have adverse impact on the business and socioeconomic conditions of the city. Generally enforcement of environmental laws, rules and regulation is very weak due to a number of reasons. Lack of institutional capacity both human and financial are widely talked weakness. Lack of transparency and weak governance are equally responsible for non-compliance of laws and regulation which makes the organizations rack less about polluting the environment. So cost of externalities needs to be internalized by the firms and also need to join the government in the following actions to address the following key environmental issues for a congenial business environment;

  • Strict enforcement of existing environmental and traffic laws, policies and guidelines
  • Partial relocation of industrial, educational, commercial, private and government administrative headquarters to sub/semi urban areas to avoid transport congestion and emissions from vehicles
  • Industrial registration and establishment of information databank on industries
  • Ensure waste treatment plants for both industrial and all other business operation.
  • Introduce environmental awareness programmes for educational institutions, vehicle users, industrial laborers and community people;
  • Initiating/introducing Green Tax, based on the “polluter pays” principle, where the industry polluting pays a tax depending on the amount of pollution. The tax could be set on emissions, waste disposal, effluent discharge etc from industries and even on individuals polluting the environment through vehicular emissions and littering
  • Introduce Occupational Health and Safety Policy or Rules
  • Ensure reduction of housing congestion especially in slums and squatters
  • Reduced biomass fuel burning
  • Protect surface water anyway


Finally, it is recommended that production process should seek to ensure that the natural environment is used sensibly for the shake of generations to come.



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