The government will formulate a master plan to prevent pollution and improve the navigation of four of the country’s rivers including the heavily-polluted Karnaphuli in Chittagong.
According to the Chittagong City Corporation (CCC), the port city of six million people produces 1,800-2,000 tons of garbage daily and a staggering 22 tons of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste find their way into the Karnaphuli River every day through 52 canals and drains.
In addition, the blood from 400 slaughterhouses is dumped into river every day, according to data from the DoE.
Dissolved oxygen level in the Karnaphuli River is rapidly decreasing, endangering aquatic biodiversity.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Principal Secretary Kamal Abdul Naser was made convener of the high-profile committee, which has been formed to prepare strategies for three rivers in and around Dhaka in addition to the Karnaphuli River in Chittagong.
The committee, led by the chairman of Chittagong Port Authority (CPA), was asked to prepare the draft of a master plan, suggesting ways to measure the pollution levels of the Karnaphuli, improve navigability and prevent illegal occupation of the riverbank.
In compliance with the government’s directive, the technical committee has already submitted a draft to the CPA chairman with a set of 50 recommendations and a plan of action.
According to the draft, the main causes behind river pollution is the disposal of untreated human and household waste, the absence of sewerage treatment plants, untreated toxins released from mills and factories, liquid waste from dyes, tanneries and paper mills, crude oil sludge, ballast and bilge water discharged from vessels and oil leakage from tanker collisions.
The draft also mentioned a total of eight major points where solid and liquid waste are dumped into the Karnaphuli.
The locations are the west side of Ruby Cement factory, the Maizpara area, Mahesh Khal, Murari Khal, Boalkhali Khal, Chaktai Khal, Khandakia Khal and the waste disposal area of Karnaphuli Paper Mill.
Of the 84 industrial units in Chittagong which discharge liquid waste, 73 units have so far installed Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP).
Despite repeated warnings, multiple factories are yet to install ETPs.
The factories which are now operating without ETPs in Chittagong include Mack Paper & Board Mills Ltd, Allama Washing Plant Ltd, Bonolata Washing Industries Ltd, TSP Complex Ltd, Eastern Refinery Ltd, Dew Drop, Chittagong Wash, Meghna Sea Foods Ltd, Bay Fishing Corporation Ltd, MEB Oil Refinery Plant, VOTT Oil Refineries Ltd and Karnaphuli Paper Mill.
Recommendations include implementation of a sewerage treatment plant and initiatives to collect and recycle medical waste, installation of an additional recycling plant for solid waste, increasing the number of dumping grounds adjacent to the river, and taking immediate steps to free canals and catchment areas from encroachment.
In addition, the proposals include suspending production of factories yet to set up ETPs, verifying the fitness certificates of boats and vessels, giving priority to environment-friendly industries, expediting dredging work in the Karnaphuli, and intensifying vigilance so the vessels can not discharge waste.
Demarcating boundaries by erecting pillars on both sides of the river, monitoring hill-cutting in the city, as well as by publicising all necessary information and assessment reports, are also being considered.
The technical committee includes the director of Chittagong Department of Environment (DoE), chief engineer of Chittagong City Corporation (CCC), chief engineer of Chittagong Wasa, representatives from Chittagong Divisional Commission, Chittagong Deputy Commissioner and Chittagong Development Authority.