Considering the current scenario, environmentalists and experts have said that the reduced number of enforcement operations by the DoE is unacceptable
Department of Environment (DoE) enforcement operations against polluting industries have decreased by 45% in FY18, according to the DoE annual report.
Mobile court drives against polluting vehicles and polythene producers have also seen significant decreases in the same period.
In FY18, the DoE took action against 571 polluting industries as compared to 1,049 in FY17. This amounts to a 45% decrease.
Concurrently, the collection of compensation from polluting industries decreased from Tk14.21 crore in FY17 to Tk11.47 crore in FY18.
Mobile court drives against polluting vehicles dropped to 35 in FY18 from 61 in FY17, amounting to a 42% decrease. The DoE collected Tk3.2 lakh in fines from owners of polluting vehicles in FY18, as compared to Tk4.65 lakh in FY17.
In line with the reduced number of mobile court drives conducted, the number of cases filed against owners of polluting vehicles also saw a decrease in FY18. The DoE filed 119 cases against owners of polluting vehicles in FY18, as compared to 279 filed in the previous fiscal year.
Similarly, enforcement operations against illegal polythene industries dropped by 44% in the last fiscal year, with 353 enforcement operations in FY18 as compared to 629 in FY17. The DoE collected Tk43.71 lakh in fines from polythene producers in FY18 as compared to Tk1.17 crore in the previous fiscal year, amounting to a 66% decrease.
Furthermore, the DoE took action against 579 polythene producers in FY18, which is 57% lower than the previous fiscal year. A total 1,336 polythene producers faced legal action in FY17.
The DoE seized 104.6 tons of polythene in FY18, as compared to 152.74 tons in FY17.
However, drives against brick kilns rose slightly in the last fiscal year, with action taken against 324 brick kilns as compared to 279 in FY17. A total Tk2 crore in fines were collected from brick kilns in FY18, as compared to Tk1.9 crore in the previous year.
Despite the formation of the DoE and the enactment of the Environment Conservation Act 1995, a recent study ranked Dhaka as the second most polluted city in the world in terms of air pollution. River water around Dhaka is not suitable for drinking due to industrial pollution, sound pollution in the capital is at near unbearable levels, and the mortality rate due to environmental pollution in Bangladesh is almost double the world average.
Considering the current scenario, environmentalists and experts have said that the reduced number of enforcement operations by the DoE is unacceptable.
Furthermore, they criticized the conversion of the Brick Kiln Production Act into an ordinance through a minimum 40 changes last November.
Chairman of the department of environmental science at Stamford University Bangladesh Prof Kamruzzaman Majumder said: “Soil, air, and water pollution increased this year as compared to the previous year. World Bank recently ranked Bangladesh as 98th among 130 countries in terms of enforcement of environmental regulations. As such, it can be seen that the enforcement scenario is not good in Bangladesh.”
“There is no alternative to enforcement. Enforcement operations and awareness building programs have to be run simultaneously to stem the tide of pollution” he added.
Dr Shahriar Hossain, secretary general of anti-polythene movement pioneer Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO), claimed: “The DoE reduced the number of drives against polluters due to political pressure. Most of the polythene factories are located in Old Dhaka, and polythene producers run their factories under the shelter of local politicians. Without political will, it is not possible for the DoE to take action.”
“We hope the new government, cabinet and environment minister takes action against polluters,” he added.
DoE Additional Director General Kazi Sarwar Imtiaz Hashmi said: “To operate mobile court and enforcement drives, we need police. However, the police are not available all the time. The DoE has very little manpower, so we send letters to the police asking them to take action against various illegal and polluting industries. Police are also allowed to take action on their own as per the law.”
“We have specifically asked police to take action against illegal lead acid battery recyclers, and legal action against brick kilns has increased as these are some of the main sources of air pollution,” he added.