THE plastic wastes piled up blocking the opening of a canal onto the River Buriganga in Purba Rasulpur of Kamrangirchar in Dhaka, as it has come up in a photograph that New Age printed on Sunday, is a poignant pointer to much of the empty rhetoric that the government has largely so far produced about the protection of rivers, the reclamation and maintenance of canals, the creation of awareness of civic responsibilities among citizens and, above all, the protection of the environment. This might as well not be a one-off incident where a single canal opening onto one of the four rivers that surround the capital city has remained choked, potentially endangering both the canal and the river. The huge pile of wastes does not also appear to have collected in the canal opening overnight. It must have taken days, months and even years. There are thousands of such canals that open onto hundreds of rivers across the country. This constitutes a failure of the relevant authorities to save the rivers, maintain the canals and create awareness of the use of plastic, which is not biodegradable and could spell disaster in the long run, with some of the signs having already been in sight.
The government has not so far been able to dispose of polythene or plastic bags in a scientific manner, which has come to only harm the environment. The government has not also been able to stop the production of polythene or plastic bags to save the environment although the environment department on April 8, 2002 ordered on the marketing and use of polythene or plastic bags. The situation has now reached such a pass that, as Waste Concern reported in a study in February 2019, 821,250 tonnes of plastic wastes are generated in urban hubs in Bangladesh a year and 207,685 tonnes, or a fourth, of the waste are dumped, with a significant potion flowing through the rivers, in marine environment. Plastic wastes are also reported to have increased 17.52 times in 2014, as New Age reported in September 2019 in comparison with 1992. The annual per capita consumption of plastic products in Dhaka is reported to have been 17.24 kilograms in 2017 while it was 5.56 kilograms in 2005. Globally, as the United Nations Environment Programme in a study in 2018 says, only 14 per cent of about 300 million tonnes of plastic produced each year is collected for recycling while only 9 per cent is, in effect, recycled; 12 per cent is said to be incinerated, with the release of highly poisonous fumes; the rest ends up in dumps or oceans. Without having any study ready and without having the need for any such study, it is anybody’s guess that the situation in Bangladesh is much worse.
The government must immediately come out of this deplorable failure by attending to the issues of plastic wastes, stopping the production and marketing of polythene or plastic bags, making people aware of the disastrous results that plastic wastes may cause and giving people alternative to the use of plastic in their daily life.
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