The Karnaphuli River, hailed as the lifeline of Chittagong, is now under threat from unabated dumping of toxic industrial and household waste.
According to the report, the main causes behind the river pollution are directing dumping of untreated human and household waste, absence of sewerage treatment plants, untreated toxic effluent released from mills and factories, untreated liquid waste from dyeing, washing, tannery and paper mills, crude oil sludge and bilge water from vessels, oil leakage from oil tanker collisions, accidents, absence of oil-water separator in the power plants, and absence or inactivity of ETP.
The deplorable scenario was revealed through a report prepared by the Department of Environment, Chittagong (DoEC).
DoEC Assistant Director Md Bodrul Huda told the Dhaka Tribune the report was submitted to the director general of the DoE on July 7 of this year.
“The report pinpointed the sources and extent of pollution. We also placed eight recommendations to improve the conditions,” said Huda.
The report discovered that thousands of cubic metres of untreated waste find its way into the river every day as the ETPs (Effluent Treatment Plant) on most occasions remain non-functional ETPs in most of the industrial units.[caption id="attachment_22052" align="aligncenter" width="690"] Children scavenge the sewage in Karnaphuli for reusable materials. Photo: Dhaka Tribune/Rabin Chowdhury[/caption]
“So far, we have fined different industries with Tk 3.45 crore for polluting Karnaphuli River and realised Tk 57.42 lakh in total,” he said.
The report identifies Karnaphuli Paper Mill (KPM) as the largest polluter since the state-owned enterprise has been discharging untreated toxic waste without setting up ETP since 1953.
In 2015, KPM was fined Tk 1.8 crore for discharging untreated chemical wastes and posing a serious threat to the aquatic ecology.
The other polluters of the river are Asian Paper Mill, MEB Paper & Board Mill, Riff Leather, Madina Tannery, TK Chemical, FMC Paints & Chemical, Ambia Pulp and Paper Mills, Mostafa Paper Products, heavy industries at Kalurghat, dyeing factories including Desh Denim and Four H Dyeing & Printing.
The next largest polluters are Chittagong Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (CWasa) and Chittagong City Corporation (CCC).
Around 15-20 crore litres of polluted water released from households and untreated human waste of 60 lakh city dwellers find its way into Karnaphuli every day. Chittagong WASA has yet to set up an ETP after 53 years of establishment.
The river has lost 20-25 freshwater species and 10 brackish water species from its 140 fish species.
Gangetic dolphins (locally known as Shushuk) have become a rare sight as they are already an endangered species.
The CCC and the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) are reported to have inadequate waste management systems.
The oil pollution in the river increases from tanker collisions.
The report cited an accident from July which spilled 1,500-2,000 litres of diesel oil when two oil tankers collided.
About 76,000 litres of furnace oil spilled into the river when a freight train derailed at Boalkhali upazila in Chittagong last June.
The accidents take a heavy toll on the Karnaphuli as power plants still lack oil-water separating equipments.
Huda further added: “We collect water samples twice a month from two points of Karnaphuli River. We analyse the samples based on the parameters stipulated by Environment Conservation Rules-1997. The sample analysis shows that the water quality remain comparatively up to the mark during monsoon but the level of salinity rises alarmingly during winter.”
The recommendations placed by the DoEC for checking pollution include finalising Oil Spill Management Plan, forming a Karnaphuli River Study Cell under the DoEC and bringing all polluter industries under one umbrella through Central effluent treatment Plant (CETP).
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