The dismal scenario was revealed through a recent investigation report prepared by the Department of Environment, Chittagong.
The investigators discovered that the water from the ETP installed in Asian Paper Mill was spilling over into adjoining croplands and eventually finding its way into the canal. The solid waste they produced was scattered around the area. The paper mill was also asked to adopt a solid waste management plan.
Industries such as Madina Tannery, Rawshan Tannery and Riff Leather, Hathazari Peaking Power Plant, KDS Dyeing and TK Dyeing, Ibrahim Cotton Mill and Asian Paper Mill have been allegedly polluting Halda River through negligence.
The waste mixes with the river water through different feeder canals like Katakhali, Krishnakhali, Khandakia, Madari, Kuaish which are linked to the Halda.
The investigators also noticed that Hathazari Power Plant had not set up an ETP. The investigators found the water near the plant to be murky.
Earlier, the DoEM asked Madina Tannery to stop processing leather until they installed ETP. The investigation exposed liquid tannery waste in their drain.
The investigation also revealed that the household waste from Bayezid-Oxygen areas of the city was flowing into the river directly.
Md Bodrul Huda, assistant director, DoE, Chittagong Region told the Dhaka Tribune that a three-member investigation team was formed on July 18 of this year to assess the extent of pollution on the Halda and suggest possible solutions.
The investigation team members were Md Bodrul Huda, assistant director, DoE, Chittagong Region, Md Kamrul Hassan, senior chemist, DoE, Chittagong (Laboratory) and Sangjucta Das Gupta, assistant director (Technical), DoE, Chittagong Metro.
“We visited different industries, feeder canals and merging points of the feeder canals and the Halda. Before preparing the report, we also talked to the local people, boatmen, local public representatives, employees and officials of different industries,” said the DoE official, adding that they collected water samples from different feeder canals during the inspection.
The investigation team also placed twelve recommendations to save the river from pollution.
They include not allowing any tanneries or dyeing factories to be set up along the banks of feeder canals, forming a vigilance team to monitor the ETP compliance of the industries, replacing the makeshift latrines with sanitary ones with the help of Local government Engineering Department (LGED).
It recommended earmarking areas where dredging increased the turbidily level which disturbs the fish brood.
Furthermore, plying of mechanised boat should be banned in the river during the spawning and migration period of the fish.
Md Manzoorul Kibria, president of Halda River Protection Committee told the Dhaka Tribune: “The river is threatened by the straightening of its bends, dredging, tobacco cultivation on its banks, establishment of rubber dams and sluice gates upstream, excessive insecticide in cultivation, and catching brood fish. The river generates over Tk800 crore a year from the fish alone.”
“The river supplies water to around 65 lakh people everyday. It is the living gene bank of pure Indian major carp,” added Kibria who is also an associate professor of zoology at Chittagong University.
“Pollution is evident with the drastic fall in fish spawning in the river. A huge number of people including fry collectors and hatchers who live on the spawns produced in the river will lose their livelihood if we cannot stop the rampant pollution,” said Kibria who has been researching for over a decade on the Halda.