August 31, 2010

Pollution warnings fall on deaf ears

Despite making repeated pledges, many of the industries, especially those of fabrics, dyeing and tannery, continue polluting rivers, canals and other wetlands in the city just to boost their profit, say Department of Environment officials.
There are still 311 "red category" [severe polluter] industries in and around the capital that need to build effluent treatment plant (ETP), while 371 heavy polluter industries have so far completed the installation.
"However, many of them don't use their ETPs. They have spent money to install it but don't want to spend more to run it," said Mohammed Munir Chowdhury, director, Monitoring and Enforcement, DoE.
Recently, some of the polluters were caught red-handed while discharging untreated liquid waste despite having their own ETPs.

Following a writ petition, the High Court ordered the DoE on June 23, 2009 to make sure that all the polluter industries install ETPs by June 2010.
But most of the polluters ignored the order only to increase their profit, comments a DoE official.
Asked why most of the industrialists have not installed ETPs despite the court order and instruction of the DoE, Fazlul Haque, president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said a master plan is needed in this regard.
"The court gave us reasonable time to set up ETPs. But there was a problem in execution level. So, around 50 percent of the knitwear and dyeing industries did not install it," said Fazlul Haque.
Currently, there are around 400 knitwear and fabrics dyeing industries operating in and around the city.
Over the last 10 years, major industrialisation in the Dhaka watershed has been observed, especially in dyeing, washing and textiles sectors.
It is estimated that there are more than 7,000 industries of red, orange and green categories in and around Dhaka metropolis discharging more than 61 percent waste directly into the Turag, Balu, Buriganga, Shitalakhya and Bangshai rivers.
The pollution level is so severe that no aquatic species can survive in these rivers during the lean period, found a joint study conducted by the Institute of Water Modeling (IWM) with the help of the World Bank.
The DoE has recently made a list of 18 large knitting and dyeing industries operating in Gazipur, Savar, Narayanganj and Narsingdi, that never installed any ETP or took any environment clearance certificate from it.
These industries, established in between 1974 and 2008, are discharging liquid waste directly into the nearby rivers, canals or other wetland polluting them severely.
All these 18 industries are classified as "red category" according to the definition of the Environment Preservation Act. Building ETP and taking environment clearance certificates is mandatory for them.
Asked what measures the DoE took following the HC order, officials said they have sent notices to 3,544 owners of polluting industries to build ETP.
"Some of them never responded to the notices. But many others seem they do not care about the Department of Environment," said Mohammed Munir Chowdhury.
"Some of the industries have installed the ETPs after getting the notices. Unfortunately, they do not use it," said Munir Chowdhury as he fined Joya Knitting Ltd in Rupganj in Narayanganj for not using it.
Talking on the matter, Fazlul Haque defended his fellow businessman saying, "They do it to reduce operational costs. Many other industrialists have not spent money to build ETP and are making more profit," he added.
"If he operates ETP now his production cost will naturally go up," he pointed out.
He however said, "Pollution must be stopped; otherwise the city would not remain liveable anymore. I think a master plan is required in this regard."
The immediate past caretaker government had earlier directed industrialists to install ETPs at their respective industries by October 31, 2007.
But most of the industrialists defied that directive.
The Environmental Conservation Act, 1995 was passed in parliament in February 1995 and came into force in June that year making it mandatory for the knitting and dyeing industries to set up ETPs.
However, the government has recently amended the Environment Conservation Act and established the Monitoring and Enforcement unit at the DoE. The unit conducted several drives against the polluters and realised fine of over Tk 2 crore.
The evaluation and monitoring unit of the department is currently conducting drives against some of those industries.
"We will continue our drives until all the polluter industries build ETPs and stop polluting the environment. None of those committing crimes against environment will be spared," said Munir Chowdhury.
The unit has already realised fine of around Tk 2.55 crore from 18 industries and filed 153 cases against mainly fabrics, dyeing and knitwear industries.

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