Crores spent, yet Buriganga polluted as ever


Sunday, 25 August 2013

DHAKA, AUG 24: Despite having spent over Tk. 16 crore, the authorities
are yet to clean up the capital’s lifeline, the Buriganga, which lies by
the western edge of the 400-year-old city. The river water remains
highly polluted on a 23km stretch, where no aquatic life can survive.

In spite of their failure, the authorities are planning another such
project to “clean” up not only the Buriganga, but also the Turag and
Shitalakhya rivers at a cost of Tk. 2.38 crore. The plan is awaiting the
ECNEC’s approval.
Water samples were collected by green activists
during the height of the monsoon. Laboratory tests showed that the
dissolved oxygen level in the river water at the Sadarghat point was
0.24 microgram per litre (mg/l). This was  followed by 0.79 mg/l at
Dholaikhal, 0.98 mg/l at Shyampur, 0.56 mg/l at the down stream of the
Pagla water treatment plant, 0.29 mg/l near Mitford Hospital, 0.51 mg/l
at the Chandni ghat water works point. The BOD was 2,096 mg/l, NH4 105
mg/l and EC 1,229 micro semence per centimetre elsewhere in the
To survive in the water, any aquatic life needs DO 6mg/l,
BOD 0.2mg/l, NH4 0.5mg/l and EC 500 us/cm, said an  officer of the
Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR).
chairman of POBA, Abu Naser Khan, said tanneries, Dhaka City
Corporations, WASA, hospitals, clinics and different industrial units
are dumping untreated waste and garbage into the water, putting the
survival of the river at stake.
The authorities have virtually
failed to improve the water quality of the Buriganga even in the full
rainy season, even after spending crores of taka under the Buriganga
Restoration Project, said Abu Naser Khan, a green activist whose
organisation has been campaigning to save the river.
On June 20, an
experts team of the Paribesh Bachao Andolan (POBA) conducted a survey on
the Buriganga from Fatulla to Gabtoli and tested the quality of the
water by electric conductivity at different points.
He further said
that it is a matter of grave concern that raw waste, including sewage,
is being dumped into a river. This indicates how other rivers are coping
with the situation and it not only poses a serious threat to the
country’s fragile ecology but also to its economy.
In such a
polluted condition, there is no scope for survival of any aquatic life
in the Buriganga, Abu Naser Khan observed. Terming the Buriganga as a
dead river, the green activist said: “WASA is dumping at least 12.50
lakh cubic metres of garbage, the tanneries of Hazaribagh are dumping
21,000 cubic metres of untreated waste into the river daily.”
tanneries are dumping the most lethal waste, laced with chromium and
other heavy metals used in tanning of  hides and skin. Then come boat
yards. Hundreds of engine boats, including motor vessels, are dumping
their bilge water, mixed with engine oil and burnt engine oil directly
into the river. Besides, hundreds of dyeing and garments factories along
the two shores of the Buriganga are responsible for polluting the
river, as well as its tributary, the Turag in the north. The Turag links
up with the Buriganga at Mirpur carrying black water, dirty and stinky
with all the industrial effluents dumped into it. No wonder its called
“kahar daria”, or river of poison.
To the east, the Balu, an offshoot
of the Shitalakhya that joins the Turag at Tongi, is equally dirty with
all the industrial waste and household garbage.
Crores of taka have
gone down the river in the name of the Buriganaga cleaning project, a
pilot scheme taken up by the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority
(BIWTA). It was the Prime Minister’s priority project.
Stacks of
garbage, polythene bags, household rubbish, coconut shells and plastic
materials float in the river’s black and stinky waters.
Although the
government has already spent about Tk. 16.53 crore to clean the
Buriganga and extracted over 8.5 lakh cubic metres of sludge from the
river bed, people living on its shores are still dumping their garbage
into the water, never bothering about the survival of the river and its
aquatic life.
Rakibul Islam Talukder, superintendent engineer of the
BIWTA, said they have submitted another project of Tk. 238 crore to
clean the 17 km stretch of the Turag, Buriganga and the Shitalakhya. The
project is awaiting the Executive Committee of the National Economic
Council’s approval, he added.