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River pollution in Bangladesh

Causes and possible solutions


Published : Sunday, 21 April, 2019 at 12:00 AM  Count : 667
Tarequl Islam Munna

Tarequl Islam Munna

Tarequl Islam Munna

Rivers of Bangladesh have been playing a significant role in constructing our society, economy, culture, politics, national psyche and ecosystem of the rivers and wetlands. 300 major rivers and channels flow through Bangladesh. Most of which are originated outside the country. It is also one of the most fertile regions in the world, blessed by many rivers and that is why it is known as riverine country and the largest delta of the world. But today's rivers of Bangladesh are the worse victim of pollution. And thus rivers have become at the same time threat to human health and also it has impacts on our economy, environment ecosystem of the rivers and wetland.

Therefore, formulating solutions to the river pollution problem requires an understanding of the regional geologic setting and the underlying cause of river pollution.

Rivers in Bangladesh: In the year of liberation, in 1971, there were about 700 rivers in the country. Now the government has a list of 405 rivers among them 230 rivers exist and the rests are either died or are dying. If we look at the documentary of the river pavement, in 1971, the country's waterway was more than 24,000 kilometers. Today there exist only 6,000 km of waterways, which further dwindles down to 3,800 km during the dry season. It means that 50 per cent of waterway has been lost within a period of a little more than forty years.

About 45 rivers like the Kaliganga, Bangshi, Banar, Patnai, Jadukatha, Manu, Mogra, Dakatia, Dhorla, Old Brahmaputra, Mohananda, Arialkha, Gorai, Hura Sagor, Karotoa, Bibiana, Pagla, Rakti, Dakua, Barak, Patnai, Kangsha, Turag, Nabaganga, Ichamati, Madhumati, Dumuria, Someswari, Balu, Jamuneswari and Dhaleswari are about to die, said Emdadul Haque, an expert on rivers,
Around 77 rivers have disappeared from the map of Bangladesh, Haque said, adding that most of the rivers have also died because of unplanned construction by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). Many rivers like the Chitra, Daudkhali, Chengrail, Ghanoraj, Betna, Mukuleswari, Labangabati, Herther, Atharobeki, Salta, Dakua Khal, Sui, Dhanu, Balardi, Phutki, Mora Kumar and Muchikhali have completely vanished from Bangladesh's map.

Most Polluted River: A governmental study was conducted by the Institute of Water Modeling (IWM) in 2007 on the pollutions in the water courses around Dhaka namely: Buriganga, Turag, Tongi Khal, Balu, Shitalakshya, Bangshi, and Dhaleswari. Government declared Dhaka city is surrounded by river Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Balu and Turag--the river was recgonised as Ecologically Critical Area (ECA) in 2009 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) of the Government of Bangladesh.

Buriganga is still considered one of the most highly polluted rivers in the world. Reckless pollution and river-bank grabbing continue to afflict other rivers including Dhaleshwari, Bangshi, Karnaphuli, Mayur, Rupsha, Bhairab, Surma and the river Brahmaputra are also being polluted.  
Causes of river pollution in Bangladesh: Rivers of Bangladesh are the worse victim of pollution which threatens millions, especially in the capital Dhaka and its surrounding areas rivers pollution levels are very high. Since the liberation of Bangladesh--due to rapid growth of population--unplanned city expansion, industrialization and urbanization in the rivers surrounding areas in the capital cities have been reducing the water quality of rivers. Surface and ground water of the country is unprotected from household waste, medical waste, industrial waste, toxic chemical waste.

According to Asian water development outlook 2016, 80 per cent wastes are dumping into rivers in Bangladesh. Water security index mentions Bangladesh is 44th out of 48 countries. A governmental study by the Institute of Water Modeling (IWM) in 2007 on the pollutions in the water courses around Dhaka namely: Buriganga, Turag, Tongi Khal, Balu, Shitalakshya, Bangshi, and Dhaleswari . The study correctly revealed that 60 percent pollution is caused by the Industries, 30 percent by Water Supply & Sewerage Authority (WASA) and Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) and the rest by others. This study, in addition to other matters, dealt with the biological pollutions of the rivers around Dhaka city.

Industrial economy: According to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) at present there are around 150 Textile and 6000 garment industries in the country and 75 per cent of them are in Dhaka. The rest are in Chittagong and Khulna.

The textile and garments sector contribute the biggest portion in the Bangladesh economy, accounting for nearly 80 per cent of export turnover rate and contributing more than 12 per cent of national GDP. 'Made-in-Bangladesh' is an internationally recognized badge of quality and has bolstered the country's image worldwide. According to Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Annual turnover of nearly 23 billion USD is predicted to more than double to 50 billion USD by 2021 and rise again to 87 billion by 2030.

Leather sector is the second largest export industry of the emerging market after the textile industry in Bangladesh. According to the Leather Goods and Footwear Manufacturers' and Exporters' Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB), around 220 tanneries, 2,500 footwear manufacturing units and 90 large firms make leather goods and footwear mainly for export. The leather industry in Bangladesh reports rising ex-ports and growing domestic demand.

The leather footwear sector registered a steady positive growth of 4.54 per cent with USD 264.28 million in the first ten months (July-November) of the current financial year (FY2018-19) compared to USD 252.81 million during the same period in FY2017-18, according to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data. The Department of Commerce wants to quadruple the total ex-ports to USD 5 billion by 2021.

However, the Textile, Garment and Leather sector contribute to wealth and prosperity of the country but in the process, they are destroying the surrounding environment on which farmers and others depend for their livelihoods as well as threatens to human health and also impacts of air, water, land pollution, ecosystem of the rivers and wetland, our society, economy, culture, politics and national psyche as well as destroying our future economy.

Industrial waste and effluent: The principle mechanical activity regions of Bangladesh are located at Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna and Bogra districts. Textile dyeing, painting, tannery, pulp and paper, pharmaceuticals, metal processing, food industry, fertilizer, pesticides, etc are the industries those contribute most in polluting water. More than 200 rivers of Bangladesh directly or indirectly receive a large quantity of untreated industrial wastes and effluent.

The writer is correspondent, American International News Service, columnist and conservator, Wildlife and environment. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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