Air pollution has now been a daily fact of life in Asia for over 20 years, with a permanent brown-tinted haze doming entire cities and blotting out blue skies and sunshine on most days. My frequent travel to Dhaka gives me some insight into how people there, in the second-most polluted capital city in the world (Delhi is #1), factor air pollution into their lives. Sadly, it’s my observation that they don’t.
Dhaka residents are in denial.
- Air mask adoption is almost non-existent. On the streets, few people wear face masks despite lead, cadmium, zinc, chromium, nickel, arsenic, manganese, and copper that can cause fatal diseases like cancer that are found in alarming proportion in the Dhaka city’s air(source). If you wear a face mask, you’re thought to be sick or fragile.
- Even among the elite, few own air purifiers. Bangladeshis may be unique in their nihilistic flaunting of basic safety precautions. Most homes still don’t have fire extinguishers or fire alarms, so it’s little surprise that few own air purifiers. You’ll find air purifiers in perhaps one out of ten homes of the elite and far fewer in middle-class homes.
- New construction projects still celebrate outdoor activities. One of the largest conglomerates in the country, United Group, is also one of the largest energy producers. A recent pet project of theirs is Chef’s Table, a modern outdoor food court comprised of stacked refurbished containers. They made this investment assuming Bangladeshis would be unfazed by bad air, and they have been largely correct.
Air pollution is a growing health crisis.
What all this amounts to is a mounting, massive health crisis to accompany the already-alarming diabetes and pre-diabetes epidemics. Specifically, asthma, COPD, tuberculosis, and lung cancer are already overrepresented in Dhaka and on the rise.
Many believe smog is temporary and a function of poor enforcement. While that is true, we’ve seen that even highly effective governments like China are unable to make long-term improvements to air quality, so what chance does Bangladesh have?levitra online
From an investor’s perspective, this means there’s going to continue to be strong growth in:
- Consumer products to cope with pollution
- Air masks
- Air purifiers
- Building insulation
- Diagnosis and treatment of asthma and related disease of the airways
- Specialized treatment centers
- Centralized diagnosis
- Medicine manufacturing
- Specialized insurance
A caution sign, not an opportunity.
But seen from another angle, poor air quality is probably a good reason to view investments in Bangladesh with suspicion or caution. The country has enjoyed consistent recent growth, but that growth is largely short term and at the direct expense of the long-term health of its land and people. Free trade zones and unenforced environmental laws may spell near-term profits, but how will companies keep talented people there if the air and water is poisoned? Which investor wants to spend time there when every trip exacts a mental and physical toll?