Toxic water from dying units polluting rivers, canals

Fish resources, crops and greenery threatened in Bhaluka

Untreated toxic fluids released from several dying factories in Bhaluka upazila is polluting rivers and canals, posing environmental and health hazards. The pollution which is going on for several years is threatening fish resources, crops and the greenmery. There are at least six big textile dyeing factories are operating in the upazila without any provision for waste treatment. They release toxic water which flows into the waterbodies, sources said. The water of Khiru river and canals flowing through the upazila is getting polluted by the coloured toxic water, local people alleged during a recent visit to the area by this correspondent. The water also affects crops and land fertility, they said. Alal Uddin of Ashka village near Khiru river said that in dry season, the river water becomes colured and emits bad smell. Fishes die in the river and they can not use the water for irrigation because crops turn yellowish, he said.

Abu Hanif of the same village said he fielded a deep tubewell this year for irrigation instead of drawing water from Khiru river. Falan Kumar of Kathali village said he cultivated Boro paddy beside Betia Mangun canal this year but the crop was partially damaged by the toxic water. Some other farmers including Khorshed, Quddus, Omar and Azim of the village also experienced the same fate, Falan Kumar said. The locals said that in the rainy season, the untreated toxic water gets mixed with different waterbodies, which poses a threat to the environment. According to Fishery Department officials in Bhaluka, release of toxic water must be stopped to save fishes cultivated in waterbodies in the upazila. Fish is now being cultivated in 329 waterbodies (beels) covering about 16000 hectares. Of these, 5350 hectares are connected with canal or rivers. The authorities of the factories claim that they are treating toxic water before release and that it is not harmful for the environment. But at the same time, they also blame each other for polluting the environment.

Shepherd Yarn Ltd is at Bhaluka upazila headquarters on the bank of Khiru river. When contacted, its Deputy General Manager (DGM) AKM Firoz claimed that they set up a treatment plant at a cost of Tk 1.5 crore when the mill was set up in 2001 and obtained a certificate from the Directorate of Environment. He claimed that the coloured toxic water released into the river is treated and not harmful for the environment. The tenure of the certificate expired on May 23 this year, he said. When asked why the water released was coloured even after treatment, he asserted that it is 'totally safe though slightly coloured'. About earlier newspaper reports on death of fishes in Khiru river and bad effects on croplands nearby, he said, "It is bogus". "We did not get any complaint from farmers", he noted.

Ali Hossain, in-charge of K and K Tops Textile, claimed that the hot water of the factory is cooled and treated for about four hours in the factory compound before being released. So it is safe. "We use various toxic chemicals for dying yarns but the toxic waste water is not harmful as it is treated properly, claimed Ali Hossain. But it was gathered from sources that the factory is running for about 10 years without any treatment plant. During a visit to Amart Dying Ltd, this correspondent saw that coloured water was flowing into the Betia Mungun canal directly from the factory through drains and pipes. Some palm trees are withering away at the spot where the water falls into the canal. Some local people told this correspondent that their palm trees are dying due to the industrial waste. When contacted over cell phone, General Manager (GM) of Amart Dyeing Ltd. Sabbir Ahmed said they have to work with some problems but the waste water released into the canal is not harmful. He however avoided a reply when asked whether the water was treated or not.
Aminul Islam, Daily Star , July 17, 2005,

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