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Master plan: 14 reasons identified for Karnaphuli River pollution

  • Published at 07:02 pm November 27th, 2019
Karnaphuli River
File photo of wastes in Karnaphuli River Collected

The master plan placed 31 short-term, 14 medium-term and five long-term recommendations to save Karnaphuli River

The master plan for checking pollution, improving navigability, and stopping encroachment has identified a total of 14 reasons for the pollution of Karnaphuli River in Chittagong.


According to the master plan, the absence of sewage treatment plants (STP) is one of the major causes behind the river pollution.

Due to the absence of STP, 70% of the household water directly finds its way into the Karnaphuli.

Moreover, as many as 50,000 sanitary and 24,000 unhygienic traditional latrines of the port city are directly linked to the river.

Civic waste

The port city of six million people produces a staggering 2500 tons of waste every day, which is dumped under the open sky in two landfills.

Due to the absence of a proper waste management system, the waste gets washed away with rainwater and mixes with the river.

Besides, there are 400 slaughterhouses in the port city’s Firingi Bazar and Dewanhat areas alone . The blood from the slaughtered animals directly finds its way into the river.

Sea waste   

A large amount of   fuel is spilled whenever there is a collision between oil tankers.

On October 25, at least 10 tons of diesel was spilled into the Karnaphuli River, following a collision between two oil tanker s.

The thick layer of oil caused a shortage of oxygen in the water.

Besides, polluted water from fertilizer run-off finds its way into the sea and hampers the growth of underwater plants. Consequently, the Dissolved Oxygen (DO) level falls, posing a threat to the aquatic animals.

Non-biodegradable waste

Fifty-two small and large canals of the port city carry 22,000 tons of waste, both biodegradable and non-biodegradable, to the Karnaphuli River every day.

The non-biodegradable waste such as polythene gets deposited on the riverbed. 

Moreover, the people living on the banks of the canals dump household waste directly into the canals, which ultimately finds its way into the river.

Unplanned hill-cutting and filling up catchment areas

Hills are razed in many areas of the city for constructing structures; rainwater then washes away sand-mixed soil from the hills and obstructs free flow of water in the canals.

The catchment areas have lost their water retention capacity. As a result, the waste can easily  mix with the river water.

Unplanned industrialization

The non-biodegradable waste released by the industries gets deposited on the riverbed, making the dredging work much more difficult.

The Chittagong Port Authority found a layer of 8ft to 10ft polythene while dredging the river.

Unplanned urbanization

Light, medium, and heavy industries should be set up in separate zones, but the industrial zones of the port city did not follow the norms. That is why the management of industrial waste is greatly hampered.

Inadequate management

Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) and Chittagong Wasa are tasked with the overall waste management of the port city, with specific responsibilities for each entity.  

The CCC is tasked with managing mainly household waste, while CWasa is mandated to manage  sewerage.

However, due to manpower and infrastructural limitations, the two agencies cannot fulfill their responsibilities as per the charters. At the same time, the lack of coordination between the service-providing agencies has made the waste disposal system dysfunctional.

Birds eye view of a portion of the Karnaphuli River in Chittagong | Wikimedia Commons file photo


Iron and lead are used as raw materials for the ship-building industry, which ultimately get mixed with the river water. Consequently, the life cycle of aquatic animals gets disturbed.


In the ship-breaking yards, there is no proper waste disposal system in place. As a result, the waste produced from the industry pollutes the river.

Karnaphuli Paper Mill

Most of the waste produced from the age-old paper mill directly gets mixed with Karnaphuli River and causes massive pollution.

Insufficient STP on vessels

The number of vessels has increased in Karnaphuli River. However, there is no STP on the vessels. Consequently, the organic waste is directly released into the river water.

Unfit vessels

Most of the vessels plying on Karnaphuli River have no fitness certificate. The unfit vessels release oil and various types of  heavy matter  into the river.

Makeshift kitchen markets on river, canals banks

The makeshift kitchen markets are also responsible for polluting the river through dumping garbage and waste into the canals.

Saving Karnaphuli

The master plan placed 31 short-term, 14 medium-term, and five long-term recommendations to save the Karnaphuli River

The major short-term recommendations, with a timeframe of two years, include forming a monitoring committee.

The proposed Karnaphuli River Protecting Committee should comprise of representatives from Chittagong district administration, Water Development Board (WDB), Chittagong City Corporation (CCC), Chittagong Port Authority (CPA), Chittagong Wasa (CWasa), Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) and Department of Environment (DoE).    

DoE Assistant Director Sangjucta Das Gupta told Dhaka Tribune that, with a view to make a master plan, a technical sub-committee was formed on June 6, 2017 where the c hairman of Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) was made the convener.

“The representatives from all relevant government agencies were included on the sub-committee. On July 9, 2017, the sub-committee members held a meeting for the first time. 

"Later, the committee held several meetings, visited different points of Karnaphuli River, and collected various data for creating the master plan,” said the DoE official.    

The short-term recommendations include implementing an STP on an emergency basis, aiming to prevent sewage  from getting mixed with river water, installing a treatment plant for enhancing the city corporation’s capacity to recycle the solid waste, taking a special initiative to collect and recycle the medical waste produced in the city, increasing the number of waste dumping spots or waste bins adjacent to the river, taking immediate steps to free the canals from the clutches of the encroachers, suspending productions until the factories set up effluent treatment plants (ETP), verifying the fitness certificates of the boats and vessels plying on the Karnaphuli, and prioritizing the environment-friendly industries while giving approval.

It also recommends earmarking of separate zones while giving approval to new industries, expediting the capital dredging work in the Karnaphuli, intensifying vigilance so that the vessels cannot discharge ballast and bilge water, and demarcating the river boundary through erecting pillars on both sides of the river. Moreover, freeing catchment areas from the grabbers, monitoring the hill cutting in the city, checking oil seeping from the vessels in the river, publicizing all necessary information and assessment reports with regard to the pollution of the river, and restoring the navigability of the river through dredging on a regular basis are also included in the recommendations.

The 14 medium-term recommendations, with a timeframe of five years, include separating the water pipeline for sewerage and household purposes, setting up separate sewage treatment plants in the city as per the types of waste, undertaking a special dredging program for excavating non biodegradable waste on the riverbed, and formulating Hydrodynamic Model of the Karnaphuli.

The five long-term recommendations, with a timeframe of ten years, include ensuring 100% sewage  management in the city, ensuring 100% solid waste management in the city, relocating the industrial units which lack adequate space for installing ETP, relocating all mills and factories of the city, if required, in line with the Detail Area Plan (DAP) and ensuring Green Technology for erecting any structure and implementing any project adjacent to the river. 

The plan also includes an outline of actions, stipulating a timeframe from six months to two years, for the implementing authorities.