Air Pollution: A Tale of Two Polluted Cities

By Asif Khan

I was born and raised in Dhaka, one of the most polluted cities in the world. I did not realize how polluted until I moved to New York City.  When I first stepped out of JFK Airport, about a decade ago, I was surprised by the different quality of the air.

Smog Over Dhaka (Image via

Dhaka is the overpopulated capital city of Bangladesh where air pollution, along with water pollution, is a vital cause of premature death. Hostile air quality is causing respiratory, pulmonary and neurological illness. This megalopolis with over 16 million people, does not have enough trees. Most of the residents of this industrial and commercial city are lacking knowledge about environmental impacts, and so they are not concerned about pollution. To increase environmental awareness, the government of Bangladesh has initiated various programs and projects, and have been motivating people to “go green” for more than two decades. I can still remember one of their common slogans I heard when I was in primary school, “Plant two trees if you cut one.”

Although, comparatively, NYC’s air quality is much better, it has many environmental issues, too. I did not realize how polluted this city is until I started to work at EPA. Now that I am learning about NYC’s environmental issues, I know that the air quality of this mega city is not as good as I had previously thought. I have learned that air pollution in NYC is the cause of an estimated 6% of annual deaths, not to mention other serious health complications.

A snapshot that depicts air pollution in NYC

I strongly believe that we’ve been doing a great job over the years to reduce pollution. However, we have to amplify environmental awareness by educating, motivating and governing people ceaselessly, just like they are trying to do in Bangladesh. Like the slogan I mentioned above, I think NYC also needs more trees and needs to be greener.  I believe NYC’s Million Trees program of planting One million trees will help to fill this need. However, to me, “going green” activities should not be limited to just planting more trees. There are so many other cautious steps we can take to prevent air pollution, and I’m hopeful that both New York City and Dhaka will take advantage of other sustainability options as well.

About the Author: Asif Khan serves as an accountant out of EPA’s Manhattan office. He is currently completing his MBA in General Management and he holds a BBA degree in accounting. His leisure time activities include painting and writing poetry.

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