Rajshahi, a city in Bangladesh, used to be known for was air pollution. Locals battled dust and smog, often leaving windows closed on stifling summer days to avoid gathering a layer of dirt inside. It was ranked as one of the “world’s most polluted cities”. Then they turned things around. In a surprise success story, Rajshahi cut more air pollution than any other place on Earth.

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Efforts to address pollution in Rajshahi began over 15 years ago with a drive to plant trees. About 12 years ago, the city addressed transportation pollution by purchasing rickshaws from China that are battery-powered, cutting down on fumes expelled by diesel- and petrol-powered vehicles. Large trucks were banned from entering the city center during the day. Brick kilns were outfitted with different chimneys and fuel to reduce pollution.

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Inspired by visits to London, China and Japan, Rajshahi’s chief engineer Ashrafel Haque started building new, better pavements in the town. These not only encourage people to walk, but also help keep dust levels down. So far the city has built around nine miles of pavement, with plans to build an additional 21 miles. Haque is also working to install Bangladesh’s first bicycle lane which will further reduce the need to use cars and other polluting vehicles.

Concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5, measurements of coarse and fine particle pollution, show the difference in air pollution levels. Between 2014 and 2016, PM10 levels plunged from 195 micrograms per cubic meters to 63.9, nearly a two-third reduction. PM2.5 levels dropped from 70 micrograms per cubic meter to 37.

Residents now express pride in Rajshai, and residents with asthma report life is particularly better for them now. According to The Guardian, now that the city has been cleaned up, locals work harder to keep it clean.

Via The Guardian

Images via Wikimedia Commons (1,2)