The many faults of Al Razi Chemical Complex
"Apart from this, the company has been fined twice -- amounting to a fine of Tk 7 lakh in total -- for cutting down hills to construct the plant,"
Al Razi Chemical Complex, located at South Pahartholi (Ward 1) of Chattogram City Corporation, was found to be producing Hydrogen Peroxide nine times higher than the permissible limit by the Department of Environment.
According to DoE officials, the plant's environment clearance also expired four months ago, and its effluent treatment plant (ETP) was also found to be faulty.
The complex is owned by Smart Group, which also owns BM Container Depot in Sitakunda, where a chemical explosion took at least 44 lives and injured around 400 on Saturday.
The chemical produced in this factory was behind the explosion at the Sitakunda depot, Abdul Mobin, member of the investigation committee for the BM depot incident and vice-principal of the fire service training complex of Mirpur, revealed to this newspaper.
The Al Razi plant was allowed to produce 1,000 tonnes of the oxidising agent in 2020 when it went into production in South Pahartholi, a densely populated area under CCC.
However, according to National Revenue Board (NBR) data, the plant exported 9,635 tonnes of chemicals in 2021.
Mia Mahmudul Haque, deputy director of the DoE (metro), told The Daily Star that the DoE declined to renew their clearance as their ETP had flaws in its designs, asking them to apply after implementing necessary corrections.
Asked whether they inspected the factory to ensure it complies with environmental guidelines and production ceiling, Mahmudul asked this newspaper to contact Hillol Biswas, director of DoE Chattogram (metro).
This newspaper could not reach the DoE Chattogram director despite repeated attempts.
These are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the faults of the Al Razi Chemical Complex.
"Apart from this, the company has been fined twice -- amounting to a fine of Tk 7 lakh in total -- for cutting down hills to construct the plant," said the DoE deputy director.
Pollution from the plant and the risks of another explosion have also turned into major reasons for concern.
During a recent visit to the complex site, this newspaper saw that toxic wastes from the factory was being dumped into the adjacent canal, polluting the environment.
Khairul Alam, a local, told The Daily Star, "This canal was our go-to source of water for paddy cultivation. Now it's all polluted."
Contacted, Jahidul Islam, administrative officer of the complex, said they have applied for the environment clearance renewal and ETP approval.
However, the official admitted to cutting down the hill for the factory's construction.
Meanwhile, despite repeated attempts, this newspaper could not reach Muzibor Rahman, owner of the complex, regarding the issue.
In the wake of this situation, locals agitated in front of the chemical complex asking the authorities concerned to shut down the facility.
"We are worried about our safety after the Sitakunda blast. There is a market, residential buildings, schools and madrasas within a kilometre's radius of the plant," said Gazi Maeenuddin, a local of South Pahartholi.
"The plant authority assured us of suspending their operations. We want the facility to be closed permanently," said former councillor and local Awami League leader Jafar Alam Chowdhury.