At least 344 factories are dumping wastes into the river everyday
The once bursting Shitalakshya is being rapidly polluted and its fish stocks are depleting as household and industrial wastes from hundreds of factories in Narayanganj are regularly dumped into the river.
In a 2018 report, the Department of Environment (DoE) in Narayanganj stated that at least 344 industrial units dump liquid waste into the river, and among them, at least 287 have an effluent treatment plant (ETP).
The report also said there are at least 2,000 factories close to the river’s banks.
Md Sayeed Anwar, deputy director of DoE, Narayanganj, said all factories in Narayanganj were ordered to set up ETPs by June of 2010.
“It is the department’s job to make sure that waste treatment plants are set up at every mill, and whether they are being properly used or not. I was appointed recently and it will take some time for me to get up to date on the matter,” he added.
Liquid waste is dumped into the river on a regular basis from dyeing factories, paper mills, chemical industries, sugar mills, oil refineries and power plants.
After a visit to the river, this reporter found that the water was completely polluted. Polythene bags, plastic bottles and various kinds of wastes were seen floating in several parts of the river.
Chandra Shekhor, a local fisherman, said: “I have witnessed Shitalakshya dying before my eyes. During the rainy season, the river temporarily takes on its earlier form of glory, but the stench never faded.”
Kartik Das, a fisherman in Shitalakshya for 45 years, said: "My father and his father before him were all fishermen, but I can no longer sustain my family with fishing as fish has become a scarce commodity.
"Once, the river had such clean water, we used to bathe in it. We also used the water for drinking and cooking. Now, we cannot even go near it," added Kartik, shedding tears of nostalgia.
Similar sentiments were echoed by fish trader Ratin, and boatmen Morshed Mia and Sharif Hazi.
Morshed Mia said: "There was once a time when fish used to swim freely when we rowed our boats. But now, all we see is garbage, with an unbearable bad smell in the air.”
Illegally built structures are also endangering the river, as houses, auto-rickshaw stands, and sand warehouses were constructed along its banks.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has conducted numerous drives to remove the illegal structures from the river’s banks.
Md Gulzar Ali, BIWTA joint director and port officer of Narayanganj River Port, said: "We conducted separate drives to demolish the illegal structures and will continue in the future."
AB Siddique, Narayanganj unit president of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa), said: "We sat with DoE and BIWTA to discuss necessary steps to save the Shitalakshya.
"We have submitted a memorandum in this regard and will plan actions after Eid. If the laws were implemented, not only Shitalakshya, but all the rivers could be saved from pollution and encroachment."