According to the log book of the landfill, around 2,000 tons of waste are dumped on a daily basis from different parts of north Dhaka
Amin Bazar sanitary landfill, the lone landfill for all of Dhaka North City Corporation’s (DNCC) waste has turned into an artificial floating island in the flood flow zone near the Turag River, severely damaging the ecosystem.
According to the log book of the landfill, around 2,000 tons of waste are dumped on a daily basis from different parts of north Dhaka.
The project does not have an environmental clearance certificate from the Department of Environment (DoE).
An August 5 inter-ministerial meeting at the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change claimed that DNCC did not follow the directives prescribed in the Environment Conservation Rules, 1997, in the first place while building the landfill, failing to ensure a sound environment.
Interestingly, 12 years after DNCC started using the area as a landfill has just started operating an effluent plant, that again, on a trial basis and saying it would erect a wall to save waters from getting polluted from the waste. What took it so long remained a mystery.
DNCC chief waste management officer Md Manzur Hossain said they have requested for more land for further extension of the landfill.
The dump yard has become over-loaded from all sides and falls on the path of a flood flow zone near a canal of the Turag River.
During a recent visit, this correspondent witnessed the sorry state of the landfill as the waste was polluting with water.
The water in the river had a dark bluish tint while nearby plants lost their leaves due to the high toxicity levels in water. Solid waste is floating on the water and carried for miles as there are no walls or barriers dividing the garbage and the water.
The landfill built in 2007 on 52 acres of land was expanded in 2017 as the garbage over the years exceeded the capacity, but the sanitary landfill has turned into an open dump due to the haphazard disposal of waste.
Locals claimed that all the adjacent agricultural lands have also become infertile.
Before the landfill was built, rice was cultivated in those lands. At present, people find dead fish frequently in the river while people living in the neighbouring area suffer from various skin diseases.
A local, Mizanur Rahman, said: “I am suffering from itches on my hands and legs. Skin diseases are inevitable if someone comes in contact with this water.
“Also, rice cannot be cultivated in nearby lands and fish are not found in the water body nowadays since it has become toxic,” he added.
Inter-ministerial meeting finds huge loss of ecosystem
The surface and ground water has been polluted over time due to the unplanned dumping of various types of municipality waste in the landfill, according to the minutes of the August 5 inter-ministerial meeting.
During rainy season, untreated solid and liquid waste mix with the water as the site is in flood flow zone, thus polluting the Turag River, wetlands as well as the whole environment, it added.
“Huge amount of agricultural land has been damaged, and the environment is being polluted with hazardous waste affecting birds and insects,” the minutes of the meeting reads.
The Environment Conservation Rules 1997 made it mandatory to have an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and maintain sound environmental conditions in all steps of building and operation of landfills.
However the DNCC neither conducted the EIA, nor obtained any environmental clearance – a clear violation of the rules.
“They only set up a Leachate water treatment plant. Even this plant did not obtain any clearance certificate and DoE has no information whether it is enough to treat leachate water,” the minute reads.
Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Service (Cegis) research associate Feroze Ahmed Kanak, in a study released in April, said the 200 to 300 acres of land surrounding the landfill, are not cultivable which is forcing the inhabitants nearby to leave their homes as there are no livelihood from farming or fishing and the environment is too toxic to live in.
DNCC now wants land extension
Meanwhile, DNCC has requested for more land for extending the landfill further.
Md Manzur Hossain, DNCC chief waste management officer said that they have set up an Effluent Treatment Plant and it is treating leachate waste on a trial basis. “We are going to incinerate the waste to produce electricity from it,” he said.
“We applied for 80 acre land acquisition for the extension of the landfill. We have a plan to build a wall in second phase so that waste cannot mix with water and adjacent lands,” he added.
When contacted, the DoE’s designated officer for Dhaka district Sahida Begum said that they notified the DNCC several times to take the necessary steps as per the law.
“They promised us that they would do so. We hope, as a government organization DNCC will become more respectful to the rules and regulation,” she said.