All of the street-sweeping vehicles of Chattogram City Corporation are out of commission as they have not been used in a long time
Sabit Alam, a student of economics at Chattogram College, covered his face with a notebook to escape the onslaught of dust as a human hauler drove past a nearby road.
Standing in the front of the main entrance of the college, everyone around him also raised their notebooks to prevent inhaling the dust.
"The Chattogram Water Supply and Sewerage Authority [Wasa] has been digging the road adjacent to the main gate of Chattogram college for a year. The amount of dust in the area has increased since the beginning of winter. But the Chattogram City Corporation is not taking any measures to stop this," complained Sabit.
Like the road near the main entrance of Chattogram College, many areas in the city are covered with dust as various government organisations are digging roads as part of development works.
While city dwellers continue to suffer from the pollution, all three of the street-sweeping vehicles of Chattogram City Corporation are out of commission as they have not been used for a long time.
How is the dust spreading?
Chattogram Wasa is already digging up around 20 roads of the city. According to its Chief Engineer Maksud Alam, Wasa will dig 20 more kilometres of roads.
"We are currently setting up supply lines as a part of two projects," he stated.
The Chittagong Development Authority is also digging up parts of the city to develop the elevated expressway.
As various other organisations implement development works in the city, they are spraying water at the project sites and on the roads to stop the dust from spreading – a Band-Aid solution according to Chattogram city dwellers.
They said the sand and mud on the roads spread around as dust when the water dries.
Environmentalists claim the dug-up soil left on the roads and sidewalks are responsible for this pollution.
Vice President of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa) Idris Ali told The Business Standard that spraying water instead of preventing dust from accumulating is not a permanent solution.
Street-sweeping vehicles out of order
One of the three sweeping vehicles of Chattogram city corporation will soon be sold through an auction. The other two vehicles have been kept at the Sagarika yard.
Meanwhile, only 10 trucks are spraying water on various roads of the city. More trucks are required to cover all areas of the city.
Sudip Bosak, supervising engineer (Mechanical) of Chattogram City Corporation said, "The sweeping vehicles are appropriate for supressing small amounts of dust. But the dust concentration in Chattogram is very high which would spread throughout the road if more vehicles were used."
He said the street-sweeping vehicles were used for around six months, after which it was stopped.
However, critics claim the city corporation stopped using the vehicles due to high fuel costs.
Sudip said that this was not the case as, adding if they would have run the vehicles despite high fuel costs if it would have benefitted people. "But that has not happened."
Sources at the Department of Engineering (Mechanical) at Chattogram City Corporation said the Department of Environment (DoE) gave them two vehicles in June 2013. The price of each vehicle was around Tk86 lakh.
The DoE, under its 3R project, bought six sweeping vehicles with around Tk5.02 crore. Of them, the department provided four vehicles to each of the two city corporations of Dhaka, and the other two to Chattogram City Corporation.
Earlier in 2005, the city corporation bought a sweeping vehicle for around Tk1.13 crore.
The city corporation used two cars to clean roads – one from Agrabad to Shah Amanat International Airport area and the other from Kalurghat to Agrabad.
But the city discontinued using the vehicles after only six months.