A parliamentary watchdog on Sunday called on the Environment Ministry to ensure power connections to industries under the Savar Tannery industrial estate were severed for causing excessive pollution.
The parliamentary standing committee on the environment, forests and climate change had previously called for the closure of these polluting industries.
Sunday’s meeting was held at Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban under the chairmanship of ruling Awami League MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury.
The Department of Environment placed grim statistics before the watchdog on Sunday on the deplorable state of the Dhaleswari River. He mentioned that the aquatic life and biodiversity of the river has been destroyed by rampant pollution caused by the industrial area of Savar Tannery.
At the meeting, the DoE said the minimum oxygen level of the Dhaleswari River should remain at 200mg/litre. But the level of oxygen in the water of this river is two to three times lower than the allowable limit.
Saber told reporters after the meeting that not only the oxygen level, the amount of metallic chromium in the Dhaleswari River was also much higher than the allowed level.
He said that generally the water should contain 200 mg of oxygen per liter for the habitat of aquatic animals, including fish. But the Dhaleshwar River has two to two and a half times less oxygen than that.
In contrast, the tolerable level for metallic chromium, which harms aquatic life and biodiversity, is two milligrams per litre. But this river has 5-7 mg. As a result, the Dhaleswari River has now become very dangerous for aquatic life including fish.
The head of the parliamentary body said the DoE provided the statistics following its research into the Dhaleswari River water in July.
He said the Ministry of Industry promised to increase the oxygen level in the next three to six months and try to reduce it.
“We asked them that if they fail, we will not allow the units responsible for it to continue. If necessary, the electricity will be cut,” he said.
The parliamentary watchdog at its meeting gave a deadline of three to six months to the Ministry of Industry to take measures to put all industrial units of the tannery industry under an effluent treatment plant .
Asked about the committee’s earlier recommendation to close the tannery in phases, Saber said they still had a difficult position.
“But we kind of understand the ministry’s position – maybe they’re embarrassed to tell another ministry. Our laws must apply equally to everyone,” he said.
He mentioned that measures would be taken equally for all. This does not mean that action will be taken against an individual.
‘…That’s not happening. Of course they give many reasons, they say it’s a matter of industry, employment and currency. But public health, the environment and biodiversity are also important,” he added.
In this context, he also said that the committee has been informing the Ministry of Industry for two years.
“We have made 5/6 recommendations on the measures to be taken. But none of this was implemented. They say just do and will do. We are now at the end point – it has to be done,” Saber said.
Separately, a press release from the secretariat of the parliament said that the meeting decided that relevant officials from the Ministry of Planning should be invited to the next meeting to get their views on the mandatory use of brick blocks. 2025 in the construction of all government infrastructure, and the imposition of financial fines as well as imprisonment for air pollution caused by brick kilns.
Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Md Shahab Uddin, Nazim Uddin Ahmed, Zafar Alam, Md Rezaul Karim Bablu, Khodeja Nasrin Akhtar Hossain and Md Shaheen Chakladar attended the meeting.
According to DoE statistics, the estate has the capacity to process about 25,000 cubic meters of liquid waste every day, but the tanners generate about 40,000 cubic meters of liquid waste per day.
This means that 15,000 cubic meters of liquid waste is dumped into the Dhaleshwari without any treatment, causing severe pollution.
In 2003, the government took the initiative to build the BSCIC Tannery Industrial Estate on 200 acres in Hemayetpur after moving all the Hazaribagh tanneries from the capital to prevent environmental pollution and protect the Buriganga.
Most worryingly, the estate has no facilities to deal with solid waste, including heavy metals and chromium.
Waste is dumped in Dhaleshwari without any treatment, causing pollution and severe environmental damage.
Over the past three years, the estate has dumped about 1.60 lakh cubic meters of waste into the river, according to DoE statistics.
There are around 160 tanneries in the Leather Industrial Park.
The tanneries and upstream and downstream linkage industries related to leather goods were accommodated in the new industrial park after its relocation from Hazaribagh in 2003.
JS body also on Saturday expressed concern over the government’s handover of part of Jungle Khuniya Palong Reserved Forest in Cox’s Bazar to the Bangladesh Football Federation for construction of a residential training center after having de-reserved the 20 acre lot.