Tag Archives: bangladesh

Air pollution is so bad in Bangladesh that it saved a man from deportation

Air pollution is so bad in some countries that it’s now affecting court cases. A court in France decided to prevent the deportation of a Bangladeshi man with asthma, as his health condition would significantly deteriorate if sent back to the polluted air of his native country.

Image credit: Flickr / Joiseyshowaa

While the ruling is thought to be a first for France, environmental concerns are set to become a common theme in global migration as the climate and pollution crises continue to deepen. Forecasts vary from 25 million to 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis.

The 40-year-old man from Bangladesh currently lives in the French city of Toulouse and was refused the renewal of his residence permit in June 2019, risking deportation to his country of birth. Nevertheless, the Bordeaux Administrative Court’s Court of Appeal granted him foreigner status in December, considering his health condition.

In the appeal, the man’s lawyer explained that he suffers a severe form of asthma, which requires extensive medication and treatment. His health condition has also led to severe sleep apnea, requiring him to sleep with specialized ventilation equipment each night. The equipment isn’t available in Bangladesh, the lawyer wrote.

“This is the first time in France that a court has taken into account environmental criterion to justify a person benefitting from the status of a sick foreigner,” Ludovic Rivière, the lawyer, told InfoMigrants. “Because it is obvious that the environmental conditions in Bangladesh today make it possible to affirm that it would be illusory for my client to be treated there, it would amount to sending him to certain death.”

Bangladesh has been repeatedly listed as one of the world’s most polluted countries regards to fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5), a term used to describe small particles and droplets in the atmosphere, such as dust, and particulates from vehicle exhausts or industrial activity. Exposure to it can have severe health consequences such as lung cancer and heart diseases.

The country ranked 179th out of 180 in the world for air quality in 2020, according to the Environmental Performance Index. The concentration of fine particles in the air is six times the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended maximum. Air pollution was a high-risk factor in the 572,600 deaths in the country caused by noncommunicable diseases in 2018, according to WHO figures.

Nearly a quarter of the global population lives in four South Asian countries among the world’s most polluted: Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, according to the Air Quality Life Index report. People living in these countries could see their lives cut short by five years on average, after being exposed to pollution levels that are now 44% higher than they were two decades ago.

Gary Fuller, an air pollution scientist at Imperial College London, told The Guardian that this was the first case he was aware of in which the environment was mentioned by a count in an extradition hearing. The case is part of a growing agenda about everyone’s right to a healthy environment, he added.

As the state of the planet’s environments continues to degrade, similar cases can be expected to be seen in court. A UK coroner also made legal history last month by ruling that air pollution was one of the causes of death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl from London who died in 2013 with severe asthma and acute respiratory failure.

GMO eggplants yield 20% more produce and revenue in Bangladesh

One of the most grown vegetables in the country gets a huge yield boost thanks to biotech

Eggplant is the second most important vegetable grown in Bangladesh, with a total production of over 507,000 tons in 2018. It’s grown in almost all seasons with 100 different varieties under cultivation in the country, offering fruits of different colors, sizes, shapes, and tastes.

But crops are challenged by insect infestation, specifically the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB), which causes between 30 and 60% yield loss. EFSB larvae damage the eggplant shoots and flowers but the most serious damage is caused by their boring into the fruit.

Seeking new ways to tackle the problem, farmers have started using insect-resistant and genetically engineered eggplants as part of a biotechnology support program. The modified seeds provided them with a much higher yield, leading to extended use in the country by farmers.

The four genetically engineered (Bt) varieties yielded, on average, 19.6% more eggplant than non-Bt varieties and earned farmers 21.7% more revenue, according to the results reported by Cornell University researchers in a recent study. The additional revenue per hectare is the equivalent of around $664 — that’s a lot for a country where the average salary is $150 a month.

The genetically modified eggplants were developed by the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) in an alliance with the Indian agricultural firm Mahyco, Cornell University, and the U.S. Agency for International Development – a joint effort to stop the losses from EFSB.

“Farmers typically apply insecticides more than 80 times during the four- to five-month eggplant growing season, a process that is both expensive and harmful to farmers, who spray without protective equipment,” said in a statement Tony Shelton, lead author and Cornell researcher.

The study compared the results of 600 Bt brinjal farmers and 600 non-Bt brinjal farmers living in 200 villages in four districts in the northwest of Bangladesh.

The results demonstrated that Bt brinjal farmers experienced significantly lower pesticide use, a reduction in overall production costs, increased yields, and provided higher profits.

The study showed that 83% of the Bt farmers were satisfied with the yields obtained by growing the genetically modified eggplant. Meanwhile, 80% said they were pleased with the quality of the product. Thanks to the increased revenue and fruit quality, three-quarters of the farmers said they planned to grow the crop again next season.

The data also suggested there was a notable employment impact associated with Bt eggplant production due to the increased yield of the marketable product. Across all districts, the labor required per hectare for harvesting, grading, and packaging of Bt eggplant was estimated at 113.1 days compared to 99 days for non-Bt brinjal.

“Bt brinjal varieties provide farmers a more sustainable crop that protects food security and the environment,” said in a statement Maricelis Acevedo, director of the project. “This study provides more evidence that Bt brinjal is being accepted in the market, but more work is needed to develop new varieties better adapted to local conditions and market preferences.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology.

Bangladesh’s waters are heavily contaminated with medicine, pesticides, and other chemicals

Researchers from the University at Buffalo (UB) and icddr,b, a leading global health research institute in Bangladesh, report that the waters in the city of Dhaka, the country’s capital, are awash with chemicals.

The city of Dhaka.
Image via Pixabay.

The research effort began in 2019 and it involved testing a lake, a canal, and a river in Dhaka, which is also the country’s largest city. The team also sampled water from ditches, ponds, and drinking wells in a rural area known as Matlab. All in all, the analysis revealed the existence of a mix of both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical compounds including antibiotics, antifungals, anticonvulsants, anesthetics, antihypertensive drugs, pesticides, and flame retardants — among others.


“When we analyzed all these samples of water from Bangladesh, we found fungicides and a lot of antibiotics we weren’t looking for,” says Diana Aga, PhD, Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Environmental Chemistry in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and corresponding author of the study. “This kind of pollution is a problem because it can contribute to the development of bacteria and fungi that are resistant to the medicines we have for treating human infection.”

To conduct the study, members of the team traveled to Bangladesh to sample water and train scientists there on sample collection and preparation techniques. The samples were analyzed in the Buffalo laboratory using state-of-the-art analytical methods.

Dhaka’s canal and river contained several families of chemicals, with the team noting multiple antibiotics and antifungals at these two sites. Rural test sites generally showed lower levels of antimicrobials, but antifungal agents were commonly seen, as were some antibiotics.

While not all chemicals were identified at all test sites and sometimes present only in low amounts, the team says the ubiquity of contamination seen in Dhaka is very concerning. Carbendazim, an antifungal agent, alongside insect repellent DEET, and flame retardants, were found in each and every sample the team retrieved.

“The fact that we found so many different types of chemicals is really concerning,” Aga says. “I recently saw a paper, a lab study, that showed exposure to antidepressants put pressure on bacteria in a way that caused them to become resistant to multiple antibiotics. So it’s possible that even chemicals that are not antibiotics could increase antibacterial resistance.”

Finding antimicrobial compounds in the water around urban areas isn’t surprising, as such chemicals are often released through urine and eventually wind up in rivers. At rural sites, the presence of antibiotics and antifungals in water is most likely tied to local agriculture.

Furthermore, such contamination is not unique to Bangladesh, but “is expected in many countries throughout the world where antimicrobial use is poorly regulated in both human medicine and agriculture,” says study co-author Shamim Islam, MD, clinical associate professor of pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

“As undertaken in this study, we feel analyzing and characterizing such environmental antimicrobial contamination is a critically important component of global antimicrobial resistance surveillance and mitigation efforts,” Islam concludes.

The paper “Retrospective suspect screening reveals previously ignored antibiotics, antifungal compounds, and metabolites in Bangladesh surface waters” has been published in the journal Science of The Total Environment.

Children are cleaning up an oil spill in Bangladesh – with their bare hands

On 9 December 2014 an oil spill occurred at the Sela river of Sundarbans, Bangladesh, a UNESCO World Heritage site. An oil tanker named Southern Star VII, carrying 350,000 litres of oil was sunk in the river after it had been hit by a cargo vessel. Neither the state owned oil company (Padma Oil Company) nor the government itself has shown any real interest in cleaning the oil spill, so now, the damage is taken care of by locals working with their bare hands.

All the locals, men, women and children alike are cleaning the spill with their bare hands.

The spill occurred on the Sela river – part of the Sundarbans, the largest unbroken stand of mangrove forests in the world. This is a unique ecosystem, with trees and shrubs specially adapted to saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics. The mangrove forests also hosts some of the most endangered creatures: the masked finfoot, the Irrawaddy, Gangetic, and four other kinds of dolphins, as well as the Bengal tiger and the beautiful, endangered Sundari tree (Heritiera fomes). There have also been reports of crocodiles, monitor lizards and many other animals smeared with oil in the Sundarbans.

Oil shouldn’t have been transported in the Sundarbans in the first place. Yet in Bangladesh, tankers carrying “modified cargo”—oil, pesticides, fertilisers, insecticides, fly ash, cement, sand, and salt—travel through these channels every day. There’s actually heavy traffic in the area, and sooner or later this was almost bound to happen – two vessels collided an there was an oil spill.

Naturally, you’d expect some sort of cleaning intervention… but the intervention wasn’t the one you’d expect.

“We try to take off as much as we can with mud. Then we go home and clean ourselves with kerosene.”(Arati Kumar-Rao)

14 days after the oilspill, QZ.com vizited the spill area.

“Men, women, and children were knee deep in the mudflats and elbow deep in heavy fuel oil. They were scraping black, viscous goo from sedges, reeds, leaves, trunks and roots. Each painstaking handful of black pulp collected was smeared off along the rim of a cooking pot. Then, they turned back to the plants for more. Children, mostly aged between 10 years and 16 years, were covered in black from toe to waist”, they report.

(Arati Kumar-Rao)

The public reaction was strong; in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, public outrage was sparked in newspapers, and social media channels were flooded with images of tigers and dolphins drenched in oil. Authorities responded that the oil spill is being taken care of and everything is under control… and apparently, by that, they mean that the population is cleaning it by hand – children included.

A spill of this magnitude required prompt and solid efforts, but the intervention has been slow and ineffective – not to mention unscientific and hazardous. It’s the 21st century, and people are cleaning oil spills by hand. Fishermen, who are most affected by the oil spill all scrape the goo by hand and collect floating smeared plant matter that they dump into their boats.

Local fishermen and their families from the villages near the spill site work in the muck without any protective gear.(Arati Kumar-Rao)

“The boats are towed back to the village “depot” by the forest department, which is coordinating the effort (with local NGOs). Here, the plant matter is boiled and heated to loosen the oil. This is collected in barrels, and trucked back to Padma Oil. The fishermen are doing all the collection and boiling without any protective gear. They are smeared in oil by day on the river, and engulfed in its fumes when they get home. These oils contain chemicals that are toxic. It can have dire digestive, pulmonary, and dermatological effects and, if the exposure extends over time, also neurotoxic effects.

A dozen days after the spill, the children of Joymoni have begun to fall sick. But right now, it is all about recovering and selling back the oil”, QZ concludes.

Article and pictures source: QZ.