We can’t afford another dead river
Despite having a parliamentary committee to oversee – and a number of laws and agencies to protect – our rivers, it's alarming that precious little is being done to stop the scourge of water pollution or punish those who are violating the laws. We are helplessly watching the slow death of the Dhaleshwari River right before our eyes, as state functionaries remain unmoved for unknown reasons. This is a major river of the country and used to have clear water and plenty of fish before the tanneries were shifted to Savar. But with the tannery owners indiscriminately dumping toxic waste in the river, it may soon embrace the fate of Buriganga River, unless preventive action is taken.
Recently, the Department of Environment (DoE), at a meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on environment, forest and climate change, highlighted how aquatic life and biodiversity of the river are being destroyed due to unbridled pollution caused by the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate. Worryingly, while the minimum level of oxygen at Dhaleshwari should remain 200mg/per litre, its current oxygen level is said to be two to three times less than the permissible limit. This speaks volumes about the state of the river at the moment, and why it should be saved before it is too late.
Reportedly, besides the oxygen level, the amount of metal chromium in Dhaleshwari River has also gone much higher than the permissible level, which is contributing to the extinction of different types of sweet water fish and a wide range of biodiversity. The question is: where is the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) that was supposed to prevent this? It is utterly puzzling that with the sad plight of Buriganga available for everyone to see and learn from, the relevant authorities still allowed the tanneries to start operation at Savar before installing the CETP. Environment experts, activists and the media were quite vocal about it right from day one, but it all fell on deaf ears.
The tannery sector generates huge foreign currency, and therefore it was expected that the authorities would give full attention to removing the bottlenecks existing therein. But it is beyond our comprehension that they come up with the same excuses every time questions are asked of the state of the CETP, paying no attention to the negative impact that the industry is having on the environment and public health. Therefore, to save the Dhaleshwari River and avoid another major environmental disaster, everything that needs to be done must be done without delay.