Seventy-seven million cubic metres of septage and 20.64 million tonnes of solid waste generated in river vessels and trains in a year are dumped on the railway and waterway, polluting the environment and exposing public health to a serious threat. This serves as a poignant pointer to the government’s indifference to public health. A study that Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and the Department of Public Health Engineering conducted in January–September 2018 also says that the untreated waste dumping is a regular phenomenon as the government has no system to manage the hazardous waste. A university teacher says that 27.5 million cubic metres of liquid wastes and 18.25 million tonnes of solid wastes are generated on vessels in a year. Trains, which carry 90 million passengers a year, discharge 49.5 million cubic metres of liquid wastes and 2.47 million kilograms of solid wastes on the railway.
The dumping of untreated wastes result in faecal contamination, also in the supply water as the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority treats water from rivers for its supply to consumers. Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan rightly observes that the water of all rivers are polluted and defecation on the rivers has compounded the problem. There are reasons to believe that although the government succeeded in reducing defecation at open places from 42 per cent in 2003 to 1 per cent in 2015, no positive results are expected unless the government stops dumping of faecal wastes on the waterway and railway. Faecal wastes littered on the railway continue to cause public nuisance as people endure the unhealthy stench of the waste dumped by passing trains. The dumping of wastes in rivers and on the railway has, therefore, caused an appalling state of sanitation and hygiene. The Bangladesh Railway says that as they have no waste management system, trains dump wastes on the way. Regrettably, river transports also lack the system of treating wastes. Notably, dumping of faecal wastes on the waterway and railway will throw a huge challenge for the government to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals 6.1 and 6.2 related to water and sanitation.
The government now must take expeditious steps to find a mechanism to stop the dumping of faecal wastes on the waterway and the railway so that the public is not exposed to health hazards from the wastes from trains and river transports.