The slow death of Dhaleshwari
The Department of Environment (DoE) yesterday placed grave statistics before a parliamentary body on the state of Dhaleshwari river, saying aquatic life and biodiversity of the river are being destroyed due to unbridled pollution caused by the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate.
DoE at a meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on environment, forest and climate change ministry, said the minimum level of oxygen of Dhaleshwari River should remain 200mg/per litre. But the oxygen level in this river's water is two to three times less than the permissible limit.
The meeting was held at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban with ruling Awami League MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury in the chair.
Saber said not only the oxygen level but also the amount of metal chromium in Dhaleshwari river is much higher than the permissible level.
Due to this unbridled pollution by Savar Tannery Industrial Estate, fisheries and biodiversity of Dhaleswari are being destroyed. If river pollution continues at the current level, Dhaleshwari's fate will be the same as the Buriganga.
Citing DoE's July statistics, Saber, a lawmaker from Dhaka-9 (Khilgaon-Shajahanpur), said the permissible level of metal in the water is 2mg/per litre. But the amount of chromium in Dhaleshwari is 5 to 7 mg/per litre.
"Due to this unbridled pollution by Savar Tannery Industrial Estate, fisheries and biodiversity of Dhaleshwari are being destroyed. If river pollution continues at the current level, Dhaleshwari's fate will be the same as the Buriganga," warned Saber.
The parliamentary watchdog, in its meeting, allowed three to six months' time for the industries ministry for taking measures to bring all the industrial units in the tannery industry under a central effluent treatment plant.
"We have asked the environment ministry to take measures to sever electricity connection to the respective industry units upon their failure to act on the directives."
Saber also mentioned that to recover Dhaleshwari from its current plight, they issued five recommendations to the industries ministry, none of which has been implemented.
"They make the same excuses every time, massive employment and earning of foreign currencies are involved with the tannery industry and a shutdown will have a negative impact. No attention has been paid to the negative impact the industry has had on the environment and public health," said Saber.
Earlier on November 29, 2021, the parliamentary body said the tannery estate has been running without any environmental clearance for 10 years and has been causing severe environmental pollution.
The JS watchdog earlier in its several meetings recommended the shutdown of the tannery estate immediately.
According to DoE statistics, the estate has the capacity to treat around 25,000 cubic metres of liquid waste every day. However, the tanners generate around 40,000 cubic metres of liquid waste per day, implying 15,000 cubic metres of liquid waste are dumped into the Dhaleshwari without any treatment.
The estate does not have any facility to treat solid waste, including heavy metals and chromium.
In the last three years, the estate has dumped around 1.60 lakh cubic metres of waste into the river, suggest DoE statistics.
In 2003, the government took the initiative to build the BSCIC Tannery Industrial Estate on 200 acres in Hemayetpur. All the tanneries were moved from the capital's Hazaribagh to prevent environmental pollution and protect the Buriganga.
There are around 160 tanneries in the leather industrial park in Hemayetpur.
The JS body yesterday also expressed concern over the government's handing over a part of Jungle Khuniya Palong Reserved Forest in Cox's Bazar to the Bangladesh Football Federation for building a residential training facility after de-reserving the 20-acre land.