The pollution in these rivers reach critically high levels during the dry season every year
The Banar and Shitalakkhya rivers are two of the major rivers north of the capital that intersect two key industrial hubs of the country—Gazipur and Mymensingh.
These two rivers are subjected to severe pollution from numerous factories situated on both their banks, prompting experts to carry out tests to determine the toxicity levels in their waters several times a year.
However, regardless of the issue of rising levels of contamination in these rivers being a well-known fact, not much has been done to solve the problem in the past few years.
The pollution in these rivers reaches critically high levels during the dry season every year. And with no rains in recent days, people living along the embankments of these two rivers have been complaining about the water turning black and slimy.
Locals say fish were floating up dead, domestic animals were falling sick and people were getting skin diseases after coming in contact with the toxic waters.
Faruk Hossain, a local fisherman from Kaoraid, said he fished in the Banar River every day. “Industrial waste from factories in Bhaluka upazila of Mymensingh enters the Banar and Shitalakshya rivers through Khiru, Sutia and Dhatri rivers.”
The Banar River has less flow during the dry season, which is when the pollution level went up significantly, he added.
“This is my living! How will I survive if the river turns toxic and the fish all die off?” he lamented.
Omar Farooq, a schoolboy from the same area, said irritating red rashes started appearing all over his hands and feet since he went swimming in the river.
Nurunnahar, a local poultry farmer, said nine of her ducks had died after drinking water from the river on Monday.
Farmer Hadiqul Islam said: “It has become difficult to sit on the river bank because of the overwhelming pungent odour.”
Abdus Salam, associate professor of the faculty of fisheries at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University, said: “The water in the Shitalakshya River, affected by industrial effluents and waste waters, has reached critical toxicity levels. As a result, aquatic animals i.e. fish in the polluted river and its waterway channels are dying off.”
These contaminated fish, when consumed, would lead to various health complications including liver and kidney failures, he added.
Farid Ahmed, director of the Department of Environment’s Mymensingh divisional office, said he was aware of the matter.
He said: “Effluents from factories in Bhaluka upazila are subjected to lab tests three times a year. Only in cases of positive reports are the environmental clearances of the factories renewed. Problems arise when, once our backs are turned, the factories do not use effluent treatment plants.”
“We are instructing the factories to reuse water from the ETP instead of draining it in the river,” he added.