Polluter industries' defiance
In complete defiance of the court order and notices served by the Department of Environment (DoE) to install Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs), most of the industries falling under the severe and heavy polluter categories have been found to release their effluents in the rivers, canals and marshy lands surrounding the capital. And surprisingly, though some of the industries have complied with the order to install ETPs they are also defaulting on their uses. The reason that they have not been using their ETPs, according to reports, is that it adds to the cost of their products. Their fear, if they use ETPs, they would lose out to the non-user rivals in terms of production costs. This is undoubtedly a logic to reckon with so long as the defaulters on the court and DoE orders are able to get away with their defiance.
But what had been the government doing since the court issued its order in June 2009, asking the polluter industries to install ETPs within the next one year until June this year? In fact, without a proper implementation mechanism, the court order remained largely ignored. And seeing that 311 industries in the red category have ignored the DoE notices, there is reason to believe that the government needs to further strengthen its enforcement mechanism to ensure that the polluters are compelled to abide by the orders. Moreover, those going by the government order can also expect that their compliance is paying dividends in the long run, especially in comparison to the non-compliant ones.
The government also needs to look into the realities on the ground that are behind a large number of the polluters becoming non-compliant. On this score, the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Industry Association (BKMEA) president's explanation of the non-compliance by some polluters is worth attention. The authorities need to discuss the issue with these industries especially about the 'master plan' the president of BKMEA has talked about. But once a solution is reached, the government should no more entertain any further excuse from the industries concerned regarding meeting the deadline.
The Monitoring and Enforcement unit of the DoE needs more implementation muscle to force the toxic effluent producing industries to comply with its orders and then install and operate the ETPs. The proper enforcement of the Environment Conservation Act should not be looked upon merely as a concern to protect only the environment, but it should also be treated as a credibility challenge before the government.