Chromium, the most hazardous element of tannery wastes, is being released into the River Dhaleshwari at Savar through an underground pipeline set at the south-western corner of tannery industrial park at Savar.
Severe pollution is taking place in the river as the Chinese firm, entrusted with the park’s waste management, is yet to install equipment to manage chromium for the project.
Cancerous chemical wastes are being released into the river round the clock by an around 20-inch diameter pipeline connected with the chromium-filled pond.
Not only chromium, other types of hazardous elements — solid and liquid wastes and sludge — are also being dumped into the river as the government failed to ensure treatment of wastes even in 15 years of the project taken in 2003.
The pipeline was found in the remote corner of the tannery park where entrance is restricted for general people.
Physicians say that chromium increases the risks of lung, nasal, and sinus cancer in human body in any form.
After visiting the site, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association chief executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan told reporters, ‘The same old pollution is spreading in the Dhaleshwari after the Buriganga was destroyed.’
The green campaigner found no improvement in waste treatment system since she visited the park in November 2016.
She blamed the agencies concerned including Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation for failing to check not only pollution by liquid wastes but also from sludge and solid wastes generated from 102 tanneries relocated to the under-construction tannery park.
She asked the government to replace BSCIC by the Department of Environment immediately and form a strong monitoring committee comprising civil society, engineers and local people to stop the pollution.
She criticised the immediately-past BSCIC project director Abdul Qaiyum for now working as an agent of the Chinese contractor when the government was seriously thinking about cancelation of their contract with the firm for violation of agreement.
Qaiyum, however, said that his aim was to complete the project from any of his position. As he was sent into retirement from government service, he joined the Chinese firm.
Qaiyum claimed that they completed all physical work for treating effluents but as some chemicals and machinery were yet to come from China, they could not go for full functioning.
Asked about the hidden pipeline, he denied having such pipeline and claimed locals cut off the bank of the pond.
‘Everything will function well by June when we will get the machinery from China,’ he added.
BSCIC project director Ziaul Haque said they repeatedly asked the Chinese firm for proper treatment of all wastes but they did not pay heed.
‘We have sent a report to our high-ups,’ he said.
Following a court order, ECNEC in 2003 approved a Tk 175.75 crore project for relocating all the tanneries from capital’s Hazaribagh to Savar by 2005 as the tanneries were polluting the environment, especially the Buriganga.
The government appointed BSCIC for completion of the project that was yet to be completed while its costs were enhanced by Tk 1078.71 crore.
Finally, in mid-November 2017, for the third time, ECNEC extended the project completion deadline by June 2019.
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