Department of Environment director general AKM Rafique Ahammed said that river pollution went unabated despite their sincere efforts to bring it under control.
‘There is no denying the fact that we have failed to contain river pollution,’ said Rafique.
He said that keeping river pollution at bay was no longer an affair which can be taken care of by his limited power with a long list of polluters playing a role in contaminating river waters.
Wastes from industries flowed directly into the rivers into which sewers were also connected for direct disposal of city wastes, he said.
Municipalities were creating unsanitary landfills by the sides of rivers and were dumping solid wastes, he said.
‘Rapid industrialisation and urbanisation has turned the situation from bad to worse only,’ said Rafique.
In 2009, he said, the government found four rivers flowing by the capital, Buriganga, Balu, Turag and Shitalakkhya, in critical state and announced them ecologically critical areas.
The Department of Environment has been preserving data on the rivers physical and chemical properties since 2010 and publishing those in the annual reports.
The latest report published in 2017 showed that waters in the rivers remained as polluted as ever.
The quality of water in rivers flowing by Dhaka improves slightly during monsoon apparently because of an increase in the river water flow.
The presence of dissolved oxygen was virtually absent in water samples collected between January and March, 2017, from all the eight points along the Buriganga river.
A river without dissolved oxygen is dead for it would not allow any kind of aquatic growth.
The environmental quality standards set by the DOE said it becomes difficult for fishes to survive in water having dissolved oxygen below 5 mg/l.
In Buriganga, the presence of dissolved oxygen has always been below the standard requirement even during wet season.
The DOE in its latest report called the Buriganga ‘a worst polluted and ecologically dysfunctional river.’
It also says that rivers around Dhaka remained highly polluted, especially in the first five months of 2017, in terms of dissolved oxygen and other parameters.
The quality of water in the Shitalakhya and Turag was no better in terms of presence of dissolved oxygen. These rivers never have had presence of dissolved oxygen as required by the standards anytime during a year since 2010.
Rafique said that better monitoring could minimise industrial pollution and for reducing pollution caused by behaviours like throwing waste directly into the river needed string awareness campaign.
He said that they punished 1,590 industries for polluting rivers across the country last year and realised Tk 90 crore as fine from them.
He claimed to have been successful in having 78 per cent industries in the country install effluent treatment plant.
But, at the same time, he admitted that many of the industries may not be using their ETP’s properly.
‘There are a bunch of dishonest industrialists turning their ETPs on only during inspection,’ said Rafique.
He said that they were developing a programme allowing them monitoring of ETPs online.
Rafique said that the Dhaleswari was at increased risk of pollution since relocation of tannery industry to Savar.
He said that the DOE was working with Dhaka Wasa too for better sewer management.
Currently, only 20 per cent of sewers are treated while the rest is thrown directly into the rivers.
Rafique said that large scale pollution of rivers flowing by Dhaka continued at least since the 1960s, and said that ‘it cannot be stopped overnight.’
Even if existing sources of pollution had been plugged overnight, it would take a long time for the rivers to return to their previous state, he said.
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