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Pure Earth Bangladesh and UNCTAD Host Workshop on Solutions to Formalize Electric Three-Wheeler Transportation, Prevent Lead Pollution

On April 3, 2024 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, more than 30 stakeholders from various sectors including government agencies, NGOs, international development organizations, financial institutions, and academics attended the workshop ‘Unified Policies and Healthier Journeys’ to collaborate on solutions.

 The workshop, jointly hosted by Pure Earth Bangladesh and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD),  in partnership with Georgetown University and Stanford University, is part of the Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution (SMEP) Programme supported by UK-FCDO and UNCTAD.

Electric three-wheelers – EZ bikes, mishuks, and e-rickshaws are now the primary mode of transport for millions in Bangladesh, with 3 to 4 million vehicles serving 112 million people every day. This growing sector, valued at US$ 871 million, is important for its role in reducing fossil fuel dependency, creating local jobs, and enhancing connectivity through affordable electric mobility.

Surprisingly, despite the electric three-wheeler industry’s immense size and market value, the sector is not officially recognized by the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) and National Electric Vehicle (EV) Policy.  As a result, it operates informally, escaping regulatory oversight. This has led to a proliferation of low-quality lead-acid batteries for electric three-wheelers, informal recycling practices posing environmental risks, substantial tax revenue losses, and heightened energy consumption, all exacerbating climate change and pollution.

Studies on blood lead levels show that Bangladesh is the fourth highest impacted by lead pollution globally. Approximately 60% of children are suffering from lead poisoning. This toxic heavy metal poses severe health risks, particularly to children, resulting in detrimental effects such as brain damage in younger children, cardiovascular disease among adults, and increased incidence of terminated pregnancies in women.

The workshop resulted in 8-point policy recommendations that include:
1. Formalizing the electric three-wheeler sector, through its formal regulatory recognition;
2. Implementation of a battery tagging system for manufacturing quality assurance
3. Tracking and traceability technology for battery, monitoring, and enforcement of end-of life management;
4. The establishment of a national registry of operators for accountability;
5. Formal recycling protocol for used lead-acid batteries;
6. Providing incentives for local adoption, and, reducing import tariffs for quality-assured lithium batteries
7. Financial inclusion in the e-mobility sector; and
8. Combat electricity pilferage by using smart meters, and data tracking options.

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