A polluter who keeps breaking rules
The doors and windows of Borhan Uddin's rented apartment, located in the port city's Ruby Gate area, have to remain closed most of the time to prevent toxic gases emitted from Saleh Steel Industries Limited from entering the place.
"The smoke emitted from the nearby steel factory is poisonous. Once inside the house, the polluted air makes it difficult for my family, especially children, to breathe," said the private job holder, who has been living in the house with his family for the past three years.
According to Department of Environment (DoE), the company's authorities have been warned several times as the toxic gases significantly harm the residents of the East Nasirabad area. Five fines have already been imposed on the company in this regard. However, the company owners seem unaffected by the situation.
Established in 1995, the capacity of the factory, which churns out a range of mild steel (MS) rods and coils, is about 84,000 tonnes per year. It is still producing rods and other products without air pollution control (APC) systems.
Upon visiting the spot, this correspondent saw various nearby areas completely covered with smoke, which caused visibility problems for vehicles, commuters, students, and local business owners.
"We have to close shop when the smoke is released, as it is unbearable. Schools, mosques, and residential buildings are located near the factory, and it is extremely unhealthy for people," said Rabiul Hossen, a shopkeeper.
Air pollution exacerbates respiratory disorders and increases the risk of asthma episodes, informed Somen Das, consultant of the Medicine department at Rangamati Medical College.
Air pollution has a significant impact on patients with cancer, cardiovascular conditions, and chronic illnesses, he added.
As per the Air Pollution Control Rule-2022, polluting the air by emitting harmful substances is a punishable offence. Violating the rules may lead to two years imprisonment, a fine of Tk 2 lakh, or both.
The accepted limit of suspended particulate matter (SPM) is 200 microgrammes per cubic metre of air.
Nevertheless, the SPM content in the air near the factory was found to be far beyond the accepted index. The company has been fined Tk 24.92 lakh in five instalments in the last four years for polluting the air, informed DoE officials.
"The APC system in the company has been damaged. We asked them to replace it with a new one," said Mia Mahmudul Hoque, deputy director of the DoE Chattagram city unit.
The APC system equipment has to be imported, and the company has already started the process, said Jakir Hossen, manager of the factory. "We have already opened a letter of credit to import the equipment," he mentioned.