Authorities must protect River Halda

Published at 12:00am on August 21, 2019

INDUSTRIAL wastes continue to pollute the River Halda which begins from the Badnatali Hill Range in the Chattogram Hill Tracts and flows through Fatikchari, Hathazari and Raozan and Chadgaon in Chattogram before falling into the River Karnaphuli. The river is the only natural carp breeding ground in Bangladesh from where fertilised carp eggs are collected every April–June. The river that was once a haven for brood fishes has now become polluted, resulting in a drastic fall in the availability of eggs and fish fry as lesser number of brood fishes travel to the place for spawning. The Hathazari administration in August found Asian Paper Mills to be discharging liquid wastes into the river. The environment department found the mill to have been running without any effluent treatment plant and dumping untreated waste into the river and on August 18 ordered the mill to shut down.

That tonnes of untreated industrial wastes continue to flow into the river in defiance of a High Court ruling betrays the apathy of the authorities concerned towards saving the carp breeding ground and the biodiversity of the river. The court issued a number of directives for the authorities to immediately stop waste dumping into rivers and to have the riverbanks cleaned up. Yet the pollution continues unabated with untreated industrial waste being discharged into the river. Consequently, a huge number of dead fishes and aquatic mammals were found floating in the river in June 2018. The department also held responsible Anannya Housing Estate, Abul Khair Consumer Goods, KDS Textile Mills Ltd, Madina Tannery and Hathazari 100MW peaker for polluting the river. While the Environment Conservation Rule 1997 stipulates that every industrial unit should have its own effluent treatment plant, without which it will not get electricity connection, there is hardly any sign of either compliance by factories and industries or decisive and demonstrative actions by the authorities against non-compliance. Rivers including the Halda are dying a slow death for a number of reasons such as encroachment on and indiscriminate dumping of industrial wastes. Successive governments have limited their efforts to sporadic drives to protect the river by preventing the dump of wastes. But this did not work at all.

The government should realise that it must relocate industries and factories away from the river to restore biodiversity to the river. It must also enforce relevant laws in compliance of the court directive to save the river.