Toxic canal water destroying ecology, posing serious health hazardsToxic water flowing from across the border through the Kalondi canal is destroying the ecology and posing a health hazard in 30 villages in bordering Akhaura upazila of Brahmanbaria district. The 'highly polluted water' looks like tar. It contains pollutants including chemicals which are destroying fertility of lands, greens and fishes, and is causing diseases among humans, local people and district officials said. The canal was once a boon for farmers as it supplied irrigation water and was a source of fishes. It turned into bane after waste and toxic substances generated in factories, hospitals and houses in Agartola and Tripura towns in India started flowing into it through a link canal in Tripura several years ago. There is a tannery and some Phensidyl factories in Agartola and their pollutants flow into the canal, it was gathered from different sources including Indians visiting Bangladesh. The canal enters Bangladesh near the Akhaura check post, flows through Akhaura town and falls into Titas and Jarisor rivers, polluting their waters too.
At least 300 hectares of lands on both sides of the canal have lost fertility as this canal is the only source of irrigation water in the areas. Soft soil of the lands have hardened and are now unfit for growing crops, farmers told this correspondent during a recent visit. The worst affected areas are Kalikapur, Sunarbadi, Bongerchar, Rahimpur, Anandapur, Sahebnagar, Kendai, Anwarpur, Hirapur Rajendrapur, Narayonpur, Noorpur, Taragon, Debogram villages and Akhaura pourasabha area. Local farmers said the water emits a bad odour and farmers using it for irrigation develop skin disease and respiratory problem. This correspondent also experienced a bad odour during the visit. The farmers said paddy plants turn yellowish if irrigation is done with the canal water. Lilu Mia, 55, of Bngarchar village said 'kala pani" (black water) of the canal is so harmful and emits such unbearable odour that we can not work in fields. The water is harmful for crops and plants, he added. Md. Jalal Mia, 45, of the same area showed his affected hands and blamed the polluted water for this.
Akhaura South Union Parishad Chairman Md. Shah Nawaz Khan said several thousand acres of land in the area are losing fertility because of irrigation with the canal water. At a recent immunization review meeting, Brahmanbaria Civil Surgeon Muhammad Ishaq Khan said people of areas near Kalondi canal are vulnerable to polio, jaundice and other waterborne diseases because of pollution. The Civil Surgeon told this correspondent that human waste and garbage are carriers of Polio and Jaundice germs. "We can not ignore presence of polio and jaundice germs in impure water of Kalondi canal as it carries human waste and garbage", he said. Sources at Civil Surgeon's office said sample of the water was sent to Mahakali in Dhaka for test. The report is awaited. When contacted, sources at Brahmanbaria Deputy Commissioner's office said the issue was raised at a Deputy Commissioner-level meeting between India and Bangladesh held in the district in 2003. But there was no step by India. It will be raised again, they said. Source: The Daily Star, January 23, 2006
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