Cox's Bazar: Shrimp hatchery wastes invade the sea
It is the beach holiday you have been waiting for. You have your swimming gear ready, and the waves crashing upon the Kolatoli beach in Cox's Bazar are calling out.
You run down the sand dunes only to find reddish-brown water rushing to greet you. Large foamy globs of brown scum swirl around your ankles, leaving a dirty stain on your clothes.
That reddish-brown water stretches on ominously for several yards, and depending on the tide, comes in from the direction of Marine Drive.
These cesspools, made up of shrimp hatchery sewage, dot the length of the coast from Marine Drive up to Najirartek.
Cox's Bazar and its surrounding areas are home to about 40 shrimp hatcheries.
A shrimp hatchery is an aquaculture farm where shrimp fry are cultivated until adulthood.
Each day, the five tonne tanks in these hatcheries have to change their water, which consists of moulted exoskeletons, uneaten feed and excrement.
One hatchery can have 30 or more active tanks where shrimp cultivation goes on, said hatchery owners.
Some have up to a hundred five-tonne tanks each.
Asheq Ullah Rafiq, a parliamentarian and president of the Shrimp Hatchery Association of Bangladesh, said, "All hatcheries have pipes to the sea. They draw in water during high tide and release effluent during low-tide.
"There is nothing of a chemical nature in this effluent. All of this is biological waste".
Of the 40 shrimp hatcheries, some have effluent treatment practices, but many don't, he said. "The larger, older hatcheries treat their effluent."
He could not immediately say how many hatcheries dump raw wastewater without any treatment.
Right where the Marine Drive starts, two long pipes go out into the sea, pumping out effluent -- a frothy sludge that created a reddish-brown layer of water within the blue of the sea. The sea-current would then pull the water upstream.
There at least two hatcheries in the immediate vicinity, and several nearby – none of them said they pollute the environment through the pipes.
Jisanuddin, the proprietor of Zamzam Hatchery located adjacent to the pipes, said he drains out the water from his tanks after treatment into the main sewage line.
Lutfur Rahman Kajal, ex-parliamentarian and owner of Niribili Fisheries, which is also located in the vicinity of the pipes, said, "We treat the effluent with bleaching agents to kill off the bacteria and use a settlement pond to separate the solid waste from the water."
Mohammed Alamgir, of Quality Shrimp Project, said his project is closed for the season. "But when operational, the effluent is treated in a settlement tank before being released into the sea."
Harunur Rashid, the owner of Marigold hatchery, also said, "We keep our water in a tank for 24 hours before releasing it into the ocean. This water is good for our shrimp, so it must be good for the fish in the ocean."
But a deluge of shrimp excrement is hardly what a tourist wants on their body or in their mouth when taking a dip in the sea.
Rafiq, president of the association, said, "The entire coast cannot be a tourist zone. We restrict ourselves to Kolatoli and Sonapara. We stay away from ecologically critical and tourist areas like Sugandha and Laboni point."
The waters of the Bay of Bengal, however, has some of the strongest currents of all the seas, and hardly remains confined to Kolatoli and Sonapara. The waters ultimately carry the sludge and scum up the length of the coast running alongside Cox's Bazar.
Nazmul Huda, deputy director of Cox's Bazar's department of environment, said he has not noticed any such pollution in the sea.
But environmental activist Nazimuddin has.
Secretary general of a social work organisation called Amra Cox's Bazar Bashi, he said, "This water is deterring tourists from enjoying Cox's Bazar."