Rampant dumping of untreated toxic wastes from textile factories for years has polluted water of the Langulia and Fatikjani rivers in the district.
The water is unusable and pollution is threatening aquatic life and crops, locals said.
There are about 1,500 small and big yarn dyeing and processing factories at over a dozen weavers' villages beside the two rivers in Kalihati upazila.
The local factories have been releasing the untreated toxic wastes into the rivers, defying the factory act. The factories have been running without effluent treatment plants when the factory law says the authorities have to dispose of the chemical wastes in a pond or pit on its compound.
The local weavers blamed owners of the riverside yarn processing units for the pollution while the factory owners blamed the riverside weavers.
During a recent visit to the weavers' villages -- Balla, Singair, Bir Pakutia, Tenguria, Chhatihati, Behalabari and Ratanganj -- this correspondent saw the polluted and smelly water of the Langulia river flowing into the Fatikjani river.
The locals said they cannot use the water for bathing and washing clothes or bathing cattle.
Some fishermen told this correspondent that the rivers were full of various fish previously, but those have gone now due to the pollution.
Abul Kashem of Bir Pakutia said the water is so polluted that his cattle suffered from diarrhoea after drinking it.
Shamim Mia of Balla said local people suffer from different water-borne diseases, including skin, after coming in contact with the polluted water.
Elderly person Shishir Das of Balla said the 30-kilometre Langulia river originates from the Jamuna river at Bhuapur upazila and falls into the Fatikjani river in Balla area. The Fatikjani ends at the Bonshai river at Ratanganj in Kalihati upazila.
The Langulia started dying after a flood control embankment was constructed in Pachtikri area of Bhuapur upazila, restraining the flow of the river, over two decades ago.
Since then, the local influential people started grabbing the river banks, leaving it almost dead, he added.
Now only a little amount of water enters the Langulia from the Fatikjani river when it overflows during the rainy season, Shishir said.
Deputy Director of the Directorate of Environment Amirul Islam told this correspondent that the boiled water released from the yarn processing factories is not as hazardous as the toxic dye-mixed water dumped by the weavers.
“Necessary steps will be taken against the polluters after investigation into the matter,” he added.