Air pollution is getting worse every year. Last year, Bangladesh had the worst recorded air quality in the world (106 countries were on the list). And this year, the situation is somewhat similar. Usually one of the ways air quality improves naturally is when heavy rains wash down the polluting particles from the air. The rain also halts a lot of major polluting activities like brick making furnaces and construction. So it is no surprise that Dhaka's best AQI numbers tend to coincide with the rainy season.
Air pollution is constantly being associated with terrible respiratory health and breathing problems. One of every eight people dies due to complexity risen from air pollution. Stroke, chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, even heart attack is connected to air pollution.
As it appears from researches, air pollution seems to be concentrated in the cities. While Dhaka city has a landmass which is roughly 0.21 per cent of Bangladesh, it is currently the residence of about 6.21 per cent of the country's population. Dhaka is estimated to have 10.3 million people in 2021 (1.03 crore). It is only natural that any sort of pollution will increase when that many people are concentrated in such a small area.
Hence, the problem needs to be addressed immediately. Around the world, there has been an ongoing trend in initiatives and activities to address air pollution. In neighbouring Myanmar, young students have come up with a campaign to spread awareness among the people about air pollution and what their roles would be in fighting this problem.
Another example is Graviky Lab's Air-Ink. This is a project that turns car pollution into usable ink. The crux of the idea is a Kaalink, a pollution particle capture container, which is attached to car exhaust pipes to catch pollutant particles. The invention, highly suitable for use in urban areas, can catch about 1.5 litres of pollutant in 25 hours of driving. This captured matter is then processed in the lab and used to produce different types of ink. This ink is already being used for various decorative projects like a mural in Hong Kong and is available for a wide range of utensils like pens, sharpies, markers, etc.
Another illustrious example is LeafyLive in Nairobi, Kenya, which is working to produce clean fuel from waste products. The initiative recycles used diapers to produce cheap, sustainable and clean fuel. The idea came from upstanding and enterprising youth from the localities, which is now helping reduce air pollution in Nairobi.
All of these stories regarding the fight against pollution have commonalities among them-- ideas and responsible youth. All it needed for those ideas to flourish was an initiative from someone and support by others. Air-Ink found its support through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding company based in Brooklyn New York. After winning the ClimateLaunchPad competition in 2019, the entrepreneurs at LeafyLife were able to secure funds, partners and collaborators to help them advance their invention.
One such supporting platform is the Urbania- World Vision Air Solutions Challenge. This challenge was initiated to help budding innovators and people who have it in them to take the first step. Urbania is a platform that aims to help ideas to flourish on the national stage. Since its launch in April 2021, Urbania is working to help the people of the community and bring forward their ideas.
The challenge was developed for online arrangements to let innovations keep going even amid the Covid-19 and to reach out to the youth across the country. The entire operation is run by Urbania's website and social media channels. The challenge also has a special innovation development phase. Winners of the challenge will be able to develop their ideas to the execution level and have access to funding
Shah Waseef Azam is senior associate at Inspira Advisory and Consulting Limited. [email protected]
Bipasha Dutta is National Coordinator of strategy, innovation and knowledge management at World Vision Bangladesh.