Pollution in the Ganges Brahmaputra Delta Plain

Jamal Anwar


ganga (bottom to bay) The Ganges-Brahmaputra delta is the largest delta in the world and the rivers contribute one-third of the global sediment transport to the world oceans. The rivers flow through 10 per cent global population and carry untreated rural, urban, municipal, and industrial wastes to the Bay of Bengal. India ranking the tenth largest industrial country of the world but most industrial plants use outdated and polluting technologies. The river Ganges flows through more than 700 cities and about 120 million litres of waste water added daily. DDT factories, tanneries, paper and pulp mills, petrochemicals and fertiliser complexes, rubber factories and host of others use river to get rid of their waste. 70 per cenr of surface water in India is polluted. About 6,000 large and medium industries and 24,000 small industries are operating in Bangladesh discharge untreated effluents (10 to 100 times the allowable levels permissible for human health) directly to the rivers without any regard to environment. All of Bangladesh's sewage is flushed directly into Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers. Increase chemical based agriculture and destruction of natural environments due to structural measures in this subcontinnent pose the greatest threat of surface and ground water contamination. A rapid disappearnce of forests, coastal mangrove forests and wetlands is increasingly lacking in natural purification of polluted waters. The point and non-point sources of surface water pollution are creating chemical and biological contamination, channel contamination and basin contamination and the existing management efforts are incapable to meet the problems.

The environmental policies in Bangladesh Governments plans and priorities are conspicuous by their absence and where they exist they are inadequate, outdated or unforceful. While the Government's proposed industrial pollution regulation is sensible, its implementation will require considerable technical and corruption-free management. It will take decades for controlling the proposed act. The development projects in this region benefit only richer societ

The region requires pollution prevention and conservation of natural environments, cheaper technology for effluent treatment and social change for a sustainable development. The Ganges-Brahmaputra Rivers transport annually 2.9 billion tonnes of nutrient rich sediments to the Bay of Bengal and there is no effort in the country to utilize this unique natural gift. Bangladesh urgently needs to develop improve farming techniques for traditional varieties under regulated flash of annual nutrient-rich flood waters in the agricultural land and reducing reliance on chemicals.Social changes are required in ist value-systems. If the society of North and South does not want to see, feel, and act according to global and regional reality, our blue planet will not survive


  • 2. 1. 1. Buriganga River
  • 2. 1. 2. Sitalakhya River
  • 2. 1. 3. Balu River
  • 2. 1. 5. Karnaphuli River
  • 3. 1. Agriculture

    riversThe Ganges originates from the Gangotri glacier in the Himalayas at the elevation of 7,010 meter where the length of the main river is about 2,550 km, the catchment area is about 1,087,300 sq. km. and in Bangladesh lies 46, 300 sq. km. The Brahmaputra river rises south of the Lake Konggyu Tsho in Tibet (China) and has a total catchment area of 552,000 sq. km. lying in China (270,990 sq. km.), Bhutan (847,000 sq. km.), India (195,000 sq. km.) and Bangladesh (39,100 sq. km), (Fig.: 1). The Ganges-Brahmaputra- Meghna river system carries over 2.9 billion tonnes sediments (one third of global sediment transport to the world ocean, Milman et al., 1983) into the Bay of Bengal. Thousands of years of civilisation flourished along the Ganges-Brahmaputra rivers. The ancient Indians considered that the force behind flowing water was a god. Mother Ganges or "Ganga Mai" was originally a water of goddess worshipped by the non-Aryans. Darian describes :

    No river has kindled Man's Imagination like the Ganges.... Since Vedic times from 1000 B. C. Indian thought has provided the elements with human counterparts. This personification, in the form or myth, allows humans some recpurse from the otherwise malevolent forces of nature. people pray not to water but to the life within the water.

    Historical Background

    Jagannatha's collection of poems is entitled 'Ganga-Lahiri', or The Waves of Ganga. In his verses, the poet addresses the river as a mother, comforter, and supporter. A typical hymn runs as follows: I come to you as a child to his mother.
    I come as an orphan to you, moist with love.
    I come without refuge to you, giver of sacred rest.
    I come a fallen man to you, uplifter of all.
    I come undone by disease to you, the perfect physician.
    I come, my heart dry with thirst, to you, ocean of sweet wine.
    Do with me whatever you will.

    In the Hindu tradition, reverence is shown to almost every river of the Indian subcontinent. This devotion extends all the way back to the Rig Veda, the world's earliest text, where all earthly rivers are said to have their origin in heaven. In the cosmology of the Rig Veda, the creation of the world or the process of making the world habitable is associated with the freeing of the heavenly waters by Indra, the king of gods.

    Another important aspect in the veneration for rivers is the purifying quality of running water in general. The purity-conscious Hindu social system, in which pollution is inevitably accumulated in the course of a normal day, prescribes a bath as the simplest way to rid oneself of impurities

    A particularly inspired motif is the visualization of Ganga as a mother, which is made explicit in the epithet 'Ma Ganga' (Ma meaning mother), and which undoubtedly is the most popular and endearing term used to address her.

    major Indian goddessesIn the cannons of Indian art, Ganga is visualized as all other major Indian goddesses are, voluptuous and beautiful. Their ample breasts and, sturdy, child bearing hips, giving adequate testimony to their fecundating powers.
    Ganga's maternal aspect is seen especially in her nourishing qualities. As a mother, she nourishes the land through which she flows, making it fertile. Historically, the land along the banks of the Ganga has been intensely cultivated.

    The intense devotion and love which her devotees feel for Ganga is no small measure due to the fact that she is the only accessible physical entity that flows both in the heavens and on the earth. Ganga is indeed divine grace flowing on to our material world, as is visible in the prosperity of the fertile and rich crop-yielding regions adjacent to her banks. The consequent deification of Ganga, as both a nourishing mother, and also as a guardian of the Hindu temple, is but a natural evolution, when from the depths of the human mind springs a natural ode to her benign nature, manifesting itself in all realms of artistic expression.

    The Ganges particularly Yamuna are among the most sacred rivers in India or possibly anywhere in the world. Jawahrlal Neheru wrote:

    The Ganges, above all the rivers of India, has held India's heart captive and drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history. The story of Ganges, from her source to the Sea, from old times to new, is the story of India's civilisation and culture, of the rise and fall of empires, of great proud cities, of the adventure of man...

    Unfortunately the rivers of this subcontinent have become the garbage of the nations. 70 per cent of surface water in is polluted (Sibert and Dutta, 1990). The Ganges in particular is full of toxics, including decomposing bodies tossed into it along most of its length, for example at Varanasi about 10,000 half-burned bodies are pushed into the river each year, along with 60,000 carcasses of cows, dogs and buffaloes. Calcutta dumps close to 400 million tonnes of raw into Hooghly Estuary (Hinrichsen, 1990). The State of India's Environment, A Citizen's Report describes:

    Out of India's 3119 cities, only 209 have partial sewage facilities and eight have full facilities, besides DDT factories, tanneries, paper and pulp mills, petrochemicals and fertiliser complexes, rubber factories and a host of other use the river to get rid of their wastes.

    An Indian's daily diet contain 0.27 mg of DDT and the accumulated DDT in the body tissue of an average Indian is said to range between 12.8 and 31 parts by million which would rank among the highest in the world (Verghese, 1990). It is likely to have the same trend in Bangladesh.

    All of Bangladesh's sewage and industrial wastes are flushed directly into Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers. There are widespread fears that as the region develops in industrial infrastructure, industrial pollution will accelerate, compounding the problems posed by raw municipal wastes. Since 1982 industrial development accounts 9 per cent of GDP and the Government is planning for a rapid increase in industrial products to meet country's vast unemployment. About 900 polluting industries in Bangladesh dispose of untreated industrial wastes directly into rivers, although the effluents contain 10 to 100 times the allowable levels permissible for human health (Ministry of Environment and Forest, Govt. of Bangladesh, 1991).

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    The rivers of this sub-continent originate from the Himalayan and mass wasting is very widespread constant faced in all parts of the Himalayan. Besides natural factors they are aggravated by anthropogenic factors such as:

    • loss of forest cover
    • extension of agriculture onto steep slopes
    • open-cast mining without environmental control
    i roads built without regard for geological and ecological factors.

    Economic development in the Himalayan region in the last few decades mainly consists in the felling of forests, the increase export of medical plants, construction of water works, exploration and mining of minerals, enhanced tourism, the introduction of commercial farming together with limited urban industrial growth in the foothills (Stone, 1993). The environmental impact due to mining in the Himalayan region (Utter Pradesh - 4819 ha, J & K State - 886 ha, West Bengal - 1147 ha) includes loss of production (forest, agriculture, pasture), loss of top soil, reduction in flow of water, lowering water tables, hazard of debris, sedimentation of streams and fire hazards etc. (Sahini, 1992).

    Between 1951 and 1976 agricultural land increased by 430,000 sq. km (15 percent of land area), much of this through conversion of non-reserve forests which were originally intended to meet rural fodder, fuel and timber supply. Certain groups of plants are particularly at risk notably medical plants due to over-exploitation by the local pharmaceutical industries (Hussain, 1983).

    The accessibility introduced by new roads accelerated economic transformation and population growth in a way which had little regard or concern for ecological fragility of the Himalayan region. Forest became denuded, roads and mines created enormous land instabilities, the intensification of agriculture led to soil degradation and erosion, pastures were damaged by over-exploitation while natural courses of rivers were dammed and all these factors together created a massive sedimentation problems. Consequently severe flooding and subsequently followed by drought. experiences India, Nepal and Bangladesh almost every year .

    The Ganges-Brahmputra delta, the largest delta in the world suffers water pollution due to several factors such as dense population, no sewerage, removal of natural waters, decreasing dilution, contaminated ground water, river used for waste disposal, no treatment of effluents and increased chemical based agriculture. The categories of wastes create water pollution are as follows:

    Liquid Inorganic wastes:

    Most of the inorganic liquid wastes come from industry, and their dilution in large river waters renders them harmless. Some inorganic toxic wastes can become concentrated up the food chain to fish. Many of the pollution incidents which have been resulted in many parts of the world in largest number of deaths and serious injuries from water pollution have been arisen from human ingestion of fish, or crops contaminated with heavy metals or other inorganic compounds.

    Liquid Organic Wastes:

    Wastes when disposed of in water, bacteria and other micro-organisms combine with oxygen dissolved in water to break them down, can be termed as "oxygen demanding" wastes. Liquid organic wastes include sewage, many wastes from industries (especially industries producing agricultural and tannery products) and run-off from rains, floods and storms which picks up organic wastes from land, before flowing into streams, rivers, lakes or seas. As concentration of dissolved oxygen decreases, so fish and aquatic plant life suffer or die. According to Department of Environment, Government of Bangladesh (1988), Karnaphuli River shows following intolerable BOD values: at Kalurghat (tannery and food processing industrial area) 800 - 12,000 ppm, at Chandragahna (paper mill) 60 ppm. Industrial wastes also creates a very high chemical oxygen demand (COD) ranges between 75-600 mg/l. Besides, Buriganga River near Dhaka shows BOD between 5-75 mg/l. A wide spread of fish deaths have occurred in these areas, and thousands of fishermen have lost their jobs. In Damodar river, near Calcutta BOD level rises upto 30 mg/l (Rao, et al., 1991).

    Waterborne or related pathogens:

    Many pathogens (disease causing agents including bacteria, viruses and worms) are spread in water - either through human ingestion of contaminated water or because water provides the habitat for intermediate hosts. Outbreak of floods in Bangladesh causes disease epidemics of dysentery and other waterborne and water-washed diseases, as floods contaminate all available water supplies.

    The surface water contamination poses greatest threat from Industrial, Municipal and Urban Wastes and Agriculture.

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    In 1987 India exported about US $ 500 million leather. About 250 different toxic chemicals and heavy metals like cadmium, chromium, arsenic, zinc etc. are used by the leather industry and these wastes are disposed of in rivers (Dittfurth and Röhring, 1987).There are about 2,000 tanneries in India with an annual processing capacity of 500,00 tonnes of hide and skin. Besides other toxic chemicals, annually 25,000 tonnes of chromium salt is used and out of this 10,000 tonnes of chromium salt in the form of Basic Chromium Sulphate is discharged into waste water streams causing environmental pollution (Schaapman, Rajmani and Pelckmans, 1990).

    The Ganges and her tributaries flow through main industrial sites, cities and agricultural lands of India and enter the deltaic plain of Bangladesh ). The River Ganges flows through 700 cities in India, and about 120 million litres of waste waters from the industries and municipalities are added daily. The Ganges at Calcutta obtains daily 252 million gallons of liquid wastes, and of which 77 million gallons is industrial wastes (Dept. of Environment, Govt. of Bangladesh, 1988). The State India's Environment, a Citizen's Report points out that of India's 3119 cities, only 209 have partial sewage and sewage facilities and eight have full facilities. The report further adds:

    DDT factories, tanneries, paper and pulp mills, petrochemical and fertiliser complexes, rubber factories and a host of others use the river to get rid of their wastes from more than 150 major factories around Calcutta ... raw sewage pours into the river continuously from 361 outfalls.

    The National Commission of Urbanisation in India reports (August, 1985):

    A major feature of our urban scene is misery and serious health hazards caused by lack of water supply and sanitation. Almost all our urban centres, even those which at one time had reasonably adequate water supply, are now suffering from crippling shortage.

    River Yamuna that flows to the Ganges consider to be highly polluted. Verghese (1990) reports:
    Civic and industrial pollution pose a threat to fish and other aquatic life. Tannery discharges into the Ganges at Kanpur have resulted in toxicity levels that are inimical to fish. Fishermen report virtual absence of fish in certain reaches. Effluents draining into the Yamuna via the Hindon from Ghaziabad have from time to time resulted in mass fish-kills at Okhla in Delhi. Pollution destroys fish directly by poisoning and reducing the oxygen content, killing fish food and affecting spawning grounds. Some species of air-breathing fish might survive in polluted waters but bottom dwellers find the water devoid of plankton and benthos. Persistent pollution can cause mutation and bring about genetic changes. Arsenic, mercury, chromium and other heavy metals pollutants are dangerous as they tend to accumulate in fish tissues and can enter the human system through food chain........Bandel to Budge on the Hoogly at Calcutta is yet another badly polluted stretch.

    The present economic development increasingly widens the gap between the poor and the rich. The limited agricultural land does not allow any further expansion along with the fast expanding population of working age. In view of this problem the Government of Bangladesh is planning for a rapid increase in industry, commerce and services (55.7 per cent of GDP). At present industrial manufacturing accounts for about 10 per cent of GDP in Bangladesh and 10 per cent of total employment, and contributes about three-quarters of total merchandise exports. The earliest industries in Bangladesh were based primarily on agricultural products like jute, sugarcane, tobacco, forest raw materials, and hides and skins. During the mid-sixties a modern industrial base emerged as heavy industries like steel, machine tools, electric machines, diesel plants, refineries, pharmaceutical plants and other chemical industries were set up. From 1985 to 1990 the industrial sector achieved an average annual rate of growth of 4.02 per cent. In recent years, the major source of industrial growth has been in textiles, with ready-made garment manufacture expanding from insignificance in the 1970s to the leading export earner today. Leather tanning and brackish water shrimp farming have also expanded rapidly and are expected to grow further.

    The industrial areas in Bangladesh are situated in the midst of densely populated regions. There are many hazardous and potentially dangerous polluting industries situated in the cities of Bangladesh. In Dhaka at Tejgaon area, food processing industries are situated along with chemical and heavy metal processing industries. In Tongi a pharmaceutical industry is situated near a pesticide producing industry. Tannery industries of Hazaribagh also situated in a heavily populated residential area. These examples are repeated in the cities of Chittagong, Khulna and other smaller cities of Bangladesh. The Government of Bangladesh has not shown much interest in environmental impact created by the industries, whereas government's concern to create jobs usually meant that when a new factory is proposed - by local, national or international business or agency - little attention is given to the likely environmental impacts.

    Surface water pollution in Bangladesh occurs mainly by human sewage coupled with municipal garbage and industrial effluents. Industrial discharges along with municipal and urban wastes are creating special problems that completely destroy the microbial-based systems of decomposition.

    About 6,000 large and medium industries and 24,000 small industries are operating in Bangladesh which discharge effluents directly to the rivers or nearby canal or waterbed without any regard to environment. According to the Department of Environment, Government of Bangladesh about 903 polluting industries such as 176 tanneries, 5 paper and pulp plants, 16 sugar mills, 3 distilleries, 57 iron and steel mills, 298 textile units, 5 fertiliser plants, 23 insecticide industries, 92 jute industries, 3 cement industries, 34 rubber and plastic industries and 166 Pharmaceutical industries are the most polluted industries of Bangladesh. Under the Environmental Pollution Control Ordinance of 1977 are not required to take clearance from the Government for their project plants, permits or consent for discharge of pollutants. Other sources of water pollution are disposal of hazardous wastes from boats and ships, and dumping of scrap from ship breaking yeards.

    So far there is no monitoring facilities for controlling or inventorying on water qualities of rivers of Bangladesh. The status of some polluting rivers are as follows


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    2. 1. 1. Buriganga River

    All industrial, municipal (700-1100 tonnes daily) and urban wastes of Dhaka city ( population 1989 about 6.5 million and expected to grow in year 2000 to 11.1 million) are flushed into the Buriganga River. It is estimated that total organic waste load discharged into the river will be around 250 metric tonnes per day (Reazuddin, 1994). The following description of Hazaribagh leather industry explains the present status of industrial pollution in Bangladesh:

    Hazaribagh Leather Industry

    The annual supply of hides and skins in Bangladesh is estimated to be about 13.95 million square meters. Only 15-18 per cent of the total supply is needed to meet the domestic requirements and the rest about 11.81 million square meters remains surplus for export.

    The small leather industry of Indian-subcontinent developed Indian vegetable tanned crust over a hundred years ago to preserve the hide in the safest way to suit Indian conditions. The development of leather processing industry was started in Bangladesh in the late 1940s. Until mid 1960s, the leather was dominated by vegetable tannage for supply to W. Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. Manufacture of wet blue, the chrome tanned semiprocessed leather started featuring in 1965. There was a rapid growth of tanning industry in Bangladesh during 1970s and by the end of 70s. Until 1980-81, the export from leather sector was almost 100% in the form of wet blue, the chrome tanned semi-processed leather (Table: 1).

    In 1977 the Government of Bangladesh imposed export duty on wet blue leather so that the industry produces crust and finished leather. With the ban on wet blue export from July, 1990, the leather industry of Bangladesh is entering into second phase of its development, the conversion of finished leather into further value added leather products to earn more foreign exchange. Promotion and Protection Act of 1980 provides protection of foreign investment in Bangladesh. There are German, Italian etc. joint venture plants are established in Bangladesh (M/S H. H. leather Industries Ltd, M/S BATA, M/S Lexco Ltd, M/S Apex Tannery Ltd).
    The operation in tanning which give rise effluents may be categorised into pre-tanning and post-tanning processes. Pre-tanning is employed mainly for the removal of impurities from the raw materials. These consist largely of protein (blood, hair, etc.) and the process chemicals employed include salts, lime and sulphides. The tanning processes themselves are used to alter the characteristics of skin or hide and their effluents contain chromium and vegetable or synthetic tanning. Post-tanning process include coloration and produce effluents typical of these addition processes; that is, containing residues of dyestuffs or pigments and larger quantities of auxiliary chemicals. The process chemicals employed are a variety of inorganic and organic materials, affecting total solids, pH, COD and of particular importance are the applicable quantities of sulphide and of heavy metals. Hazardous chemicals for leather and dyes treatments are Ammonium Bicarbonate, Chromic Acetate, Ethylene Glycol Monoethyl Ether, Methylamine, o-Nitrophenol, Toulene Diamine, 2,4,5-Trichlorphenol, Zinc Hydrosulfite, Zinc Sulfate, tert-Butylamine, Cadmium Nitrate, Cadmium (II) Acetate, Copper(2)Nitrate, 1,4-1,8 Dichloronaphthalene, Nickel Sulphate, o-Xylene, Zinc Nitrate etc.170 tanneries of Hazaribagh generates waste water about 5,000 litres/100 kg of hides and skins. BKH Consulting Engineers in 1986 reported the following characteristics of the effluents:
    parameters range of variation

    • pH 4 -10
    • Total alkalinity as CaC03 , mg/l 185-6475
    • Electrical conductivity 670-5300 (Micro-mhos/cms)
    • Chloride, mg/l 175-18000
    • Chromium, mg/l 3-28000
    • COD, mg/l 120-9600
    • Ammonia nitrogen, mg/l 12-1970

    Tubewells for drinking water adjacent to the down-gradient from the Hazaribagh industrial area is highly polluted.
    For example Chromic Acetate shows the following characteristics (Sax, 1986):

    • Potential for Accumulation: Positive
    • Food Chain Contamination Potential: Positive, can be concentrated in food chain.
    • Etiologic Potential: Chrome ulcer
    • Carciniogenecity: Potential, higher occurrence of lung cancer
    • Acute Hazard Level: Extremely toxic if ingested or inhaled. Corrosive to living tissue.
    Degree of Hazard to Public Health:
    Highly toxic material via ingestion or inhalation. Corrosive to skin and mumem; potential carcinogenic.

    At present in Bangladesh the tanner's basic wet process technique is to treat the stock with increasing concentrations of process chemicals using water as the carrier. In order to ensure full penetration of the thickest hide or skin in the batch, these concentrations are in excess of what is needed and the unabsorbed chemicals are discharged in the effluent, where they are a waste and cause expensive treatment problems. While the Chemical companies in the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Spain and Italy provide short term training on the application of their chemicals, Whereas they do not provide any assistance how to treat toxic effluents that increasingly contaminate surface and ground water. Consultants provide technological transfer and management either on arm's length fee paying basis on assignment or financed by the World Bank, UNIDO, ITC or other United Agencies.

    The small cottage tanners of Hazaribagh producing sandal leather out of cow heads are probably the only tanning group in the world using waste tanning liquor from the modern tanners as their process liquor. But after using these waste are eventually discharged, as are all other tannery discharges in the Hazaribagh tanning effluents into the streets, gutters and sewers which ultimately enter surface and ground water. According to Dittfurth and Röhring (1987) about 250 different toxic chemicals and heavy metals like cadmium, chromium, arsenic, zinc etc. are used by the leather industry. When the local industry was basically a vegetable tanning complex, this effluent might have been high in BOD and unpleasant but particularly dangerous.

    There is, in addition, an extremely hazardous air pollution occur in Hazaribagh which is not known in any other places of the world. The rest treated hides and skins are cooked in open air to obtain glue for the local market. They burn treated leather pieces instead of coal or wood as it is cheaper. The smog and the smell like a witch cooking pot and it is beyond author's capability to narrate. The most hazard occurs when the poorer group uses poisonous treated leather pieces as an alternative fuel to cook regular meals. No body knows how much harm and potential carcinogen diseases will occur to the slum inhabitants. There is no warning from the Government or aid giving agencies or their representatives. This is the vicious circle that the poorest groups are the worst victims of the foreign currency earning schemes.

    Buriganga turns into a toxic dump

    river Buriganga, which has turned jet-blackSevere pollution has reduced the river Buriganga into a 'dumping drain' of toxic refuse, threatening millions of people living on its banks with serious health hazards and a loss of their livelihoods. That the river is dying is clearly evident from its stench. The highly toxic waters release a 'gas' that starts irritating the nostrils and throat as soon as humans breathe it. Its foul odors can be smelled from as far away as half a kilometre. "Sometimes we are unable to sit in our office due to the unbearable stench from the river water," said an official at the Sadarghat river port. As the day rolls into the afternoon the heat of the sun turns the stench even fouler, making the 'pitch black' Buriganga water intolerable, he said. Soon after the floodwater receded and the river wore its lean period look, the pollution instantly increased due to a lack of dispersion. Millions of cubic metres of toxic waste from the Hazaribagh tanneries and thousands of other industries, topped with a huge volume of untreated sewage from the city, now remain almost stagnant within the river water. The situation is set to continue until a new flow of water rushes in from the upstream, beginning in perhaps another two months.

    In the meantime, people living along the river are the worst victims of the pollution, which they say is worse than anything they've seen in previous years. Thousands of water transport workers, working on the passenger and cargo vessels in Sadraghat, are forced to bring water from the river Meghna and Dhaleswari for washing. Unable to take a bath or wash clothes for days, many of them have even begun to suffer from various diseases. "We can not use the water of the Buriganga for bathing, washing or cooking," said Mohammad Uzzal, an employee of a launch. "For cooking, we use the water collected from faraway places in our water tank," said Mohammad Jalil, a launch cook. Farid, a ticket collector of MV Mashiron Khan-1, said that even for washing the floor of the vessels they have to bring water from relatively less polluted rivers such as the Meghna near Chandpur.

    "Sometimes, when we require more water while anchored at the terminal, we are forced to buy tap water at a high price," said a launch operator. "If we wash the vessel with this water passengers complain of a bad smell," he said. At least two private companies supply 'pure water' to the launches in the Sadarghat, charging about Tk 150 for filling a 400-liter capacity water reservoir.

    he scenario is even bleaker in the villages along the river, in the upstream of the Buriganga. Hundreds of thousands of families living in Zinzira, Kholamora, Kamrangirchar, Jhaochar, Modhyerchar, Wasspur, Basila and Looterchar face a severe water crisis for at least six months a year. Dependent on the river for generations, this population has been cut off from using the river water for over ten years. Although almost every household has a tube-well, ninety percent of them become dry during the lean period. Housewives are even forced to travel miles for washing and collecting water. "There are people, particularly migrant day labourers, who are badly suffering as they are unable to wash their clothes or take a bath for days," said Lakhan, a former fisherman from Basila.

    Pollution in the river has also rendered totally barren hundreds of acres agricultural land and also destroyed the river water's ecosystem. Once famous for its variety of local fishes, the Buriganga now has virtually no aquatic life. There are at least 200 sources from which polluted water pours into the river Buriganga, chief among them sewage waste from the tanneries at Rayer Bazar. The government now has a plan to relocate the Hazaribagh tanneries to Savar with effluent treatment plants. A top BIWTA official said that all the feeder rivers in the upstream, such as the Jamuna and the Brahmaputra, remain cut off during most of the year due to siltation in confluent areas. "The river Buriganga becomes almost stagnant as the water flow from upstream is almost totally cut off in the lean period," he said (Morshed Ali Khan and Rafiq Hasan , Daily Star, March 16, 2005).

    Buriganga pollution

    It is with extreme distress that we learned of the stunning deterioration in the Buriganga river which has of late turned into a veritable cesspool of pollution. The Buriganga has become the dumping ground for all kinds of toxic refuse and sewage that has turned this once beautiful and vibrant river into a health hazard that now endangers the well-being and livelihood of millions who live and work in its environs. The pollution has reached such a state that the river waters are now more or less pitch black and give off a noxious odour that can be clearly detected from the banks. Thousands of tons of toxic waste from tanneries and other industries together with untreated sewage pours into the river every day. The fact that the river has lost much of its volume in recent years and scarcely flows contributes to the problem, as the refuse sits as sediment in the water and is not washed downstream.

    The detrimental impact on those who live and ply their trade on the banks of the river does not require any elaboration. Things are so bad that they are forced to bring water from the Meghna and Dhalswari rivers for washing and drinking. Pollution of our waterways is now reaching epidemic proportions. Nor is this the only kind of pollution that we must deal with as the country becomes more urbanised and more industrialised. The government has enacted some positive steps to counter pollution such as the switch to compressed natural gas and the banning of poly bags, for which credit is due. However an ad hoc approach to the problem is not enough.

    The government needs to give urgent attention to the problem of pollution and come up with a cohesive plan to combat its dangers. Only a holistic and integrated approach that takes the matter seriously will work. The government must act before it is too late and as the plight of the Buriganga shows, action is long overdue. There can scarcely be a more pressing concern than to ensure that the air we breathe and the water we drink are free of toxins (Editorial, Daily Star, March 19, 2005).

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    2. 1. 2. Sitalakhya River

    Besides wastes from Dhaka urban population the river receives untreated industrial wastes from urea fertiliser plants, textile mills and other industries. The principal polluting agent in the region is the Urea Fertiliser Factory of Ghorasal and the concentration of ammonia dissolved in water has increased over time causing fish-kills.

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    2. 1. 3. Balu River

    The river near Tongi (15 miles north of Dhaka) receives untreated effluents from industries such as textiles, lead batteries, pulp and paper, pharmaceuticals, paints, detergents, iron and steel, rubber etc.

    balu riverAs new industries and an entire new city sprout along its banks, the river Balu on the eastern fringe of the city is slowly dying, strangled by land encroachment and poisoned by industrial pollution, creating a serious health hazard for several lakh people living in the area. Local people say the stench in the river Balu is so strong during the lean period that they find it difficult to breathe. "We can not even think of touching the water during the lean season, which lasts for over four months. The water is so polluted and bad smelling that it turns the skin white," said Nuru Mian of Boro Beraid village on the western bank of the river.

    The river is also slowly shrinking, making navigation increasingly difficult, since many areas along its banks have been filled in to support a host of new buildings, including brick kilns, shops, cinema halls, pucca houses and ghats. Many examples of such destructive building activities were clearly visible at several points during a visit to the river on Saturday. A mosque was built on the eastern side of the river at Eshapur, 75 per cent of it on the river. Its first floor was erected on a number of pillars directly on the river. Elsewhere, the river is being strangled in order to give birth to an entire new city Purbachal, which the Rajdhani Unnayan Katripakkha RAJUK is building on 6,000 acres of land covering Dhaka Narayanganj and Gazipur districts. Hundreds of barges can be seen carrying sand from the River Meghna and Munshiganj areas to fill in low lands.

    As a consequence of the gradual encroachment, the river, which originates from the Lakkhah and the old Brahmmaputra in Mymensingh and flows to Shitalakhya, has become so narrow that goods-carrying vessels often get stuck on the riverbed. During winter, it virtually shrinks to a small canal. Lakhs of people living on the banks of the 21-kilometer long river are also facing a serious water crisis since they can no longer use the river water for daily tasks, such as bathing and washing clothes. Even ten years ago, the river water was clean and usable for various household purposes. Fishermen netted big fish on the river all year round, the villager Mian said. But now hardly any fish can survive in the polluted water, he recalled.

    "We cannot even wash our legs in the river because it causes itching," said Mahbubul Alam of the same village. He said cultivation of vegetables on the land along the river is also being affected because of pollution in the water. Sources say the river is being poisoned because sewage water from Dhaka city flows into it via the Rampura Khal, spreading throughout the whole area through arteries and various canals. A high ranking engineer from Dhaka WASA admitted responsibility for polluting the river Balu and several hundred villages along it.

    But he added that unscrupulous home and industry owners on an area of about 35 square kilometers cause the pollution. They have illegally connected their sewerage lines with the storm sewerage, which discharges huge volumes of night soil and industrial wastes into the river through the Rampura sluice gate, he alleged. He said, however, that WASA plans to set up a sewage and waste treatment plant on the eastern fringe of the city, but that the plan has remained shelved for years due to funding constraints. "We have proposed to the World Bank and also appealed for funds but no investor is coming forward. The river pollution will not go until such treatment plants are in place," said the official, requesting anonymity.

    Making matters worse, the villagers have become totally dependent on local tube wells since the river water is highly contaminated. But these only supply a very little amount of water during the lean season. On average, 60 out of 100 tube wells in the area remain non-functional during this time, the villagers said. Poor villagers and day labourers who can not manage a tube well face severe hardship in obtaining water. But even those who have a tube well face difficulties, as the hand operated tube wells require a lot of pressure to obtain an adequate supply.

    Mohammad Quamrul Islam, a local member of parliament and state minister for expatriate welfare and overseas employment, told The Daily Star that he has taken initiatives several times to reduce the pollution level in the river Balu. A big waste treatment plant is necessary to stop pollution in the river but no such plant is being set up due to lack of investors for the project, he told The Daily Star, March 12, 2005.

    2. 1. 4. Bhairab/Rupsa Rivers

    The principal industries of Khulna (south-east of Bangladesh) are jute mills, oil mills, newsprint mills, cable, shipyards, tobacco, match factories, hardboard and others dispose molasses, starch, oil, sodium-sulphide, ethane, lissapol, sodaash, dye, sulphuric acid, salicylic acid, lime, ammonium sulphide, and chrome etc. Afew study at Bhairab River shows a very alarming water quality data (Nov.-April 1988-89) - conductivity 390-9500 Micro-mhos/cms, total solid 260-3500 mg/l, TDS 260-3200 mg/l. The pollution aspects of Bhairab and Rupsa Rivers is very critical - the Rupsa River does not receive a continuous flow of fresh water from the parent river, on the other hand, the Bhairab River, being subject to tides, has marked backwater effects which reduce the purification capacity of the river.

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    2. 1. 5. Karnaphuli River

    The polluting industries of Chittagong (south-east of Bangladesh) such as 19 tanneries, 26 textile mills, 1 oil refinery, 1 TSP plant, 1 DDT plant, 2 chemical complexes, 5 fish processing units, 1 urea fertiliser factory, 1 asphalt bitumen plant, 1 steel mill, 1 paper mill (solid waste disposal hourly 1450 m³), 1 rayon mill complex, 2 cement factories, 2 pesticide manufacturing plants, 4 paint and dye manufacturing plants, several soap and detergent factories and a number of light industrial units directly discharge untreated toxic effluent into Karnaphuli river. From the survey of effluents from different industries , it has been found that the discharge is generally compose of organic and inorganic wastes. The organic waster are the effluents from the tanneries, fish processing units, degradable wood chips, pulps and untreated municipal and sewage (about 40,000 kg BOD daily) etc. The inorganic waster are chemicals used by the industries such as various acids, bleaching powder, lissapol, hydrogenperoxide, alkali, salts, lime, dyes, pigments, aluminium-sulphate and heavy metals etc. The DDT factory and fertiliser factory disposing of DDT, toxic chemicals and heavy metals to the Karnaphuli River and ultimately to the Bay of Bengal ( Table: 2 and 3). The tables show about 220 ppm of chromium, 0.3-2.9 of cadmium, 0.05-0.27 ppm of mercury, 0.5-21.8 ppm of lead entering river and sea water much higher than allowable limits. and extremely alarmingly to aquatic flora and fauna and through food chains to human beings. It may be mentioned that Bangladesh obtain table salt from solar drying of sea water and consequently increase pollution of sea water shall create a serious national health hazard situation.

    About 20,000 fishermen became jobless at Rangonia, Boalkhali and Anwara Upazila due to water pollution (Dept. of Environment, 1988). The estimate of crude oil spillage at Chittagong is about 6,000 metric tonnes per year, while about 240,000 gallons per year of bilge water is also dumped (Ministry of Environment, 1992). Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons known to be carcinogenic enter the river water and also the Bay of Bengal. But no specific study or quantitative analysis of the run-off, discharge amount or residue level has so far been analysed.

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    India currently uses about 5 million tonnes of fertiliser, around 12 000 tonnes of pesticides and manufactures 55 varieties of pesticide, of which DDT, BHC and malathion account for half of the output (Verghese, 1990). In Bangladesh during 1979-80 total use of pesticides was nearly 2,3047 tonnes, whereas the use rose during 1984-85 to nearly 4,000 tonnes, during 1989-90 to more than 5,000 tonnes and during 1992-93 about 7,200 tonnes. Indiscriminate and excessive use of pesticides in increasing amount are posing greatest threat to surface water pollution in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta plain. DDT and other highly toxic pesticides (Dirty Dozen) are indiscriminately used by the farming community.

    In Bangladesh total production of rice (Aus, Aman, and Boro) and wheat increased from 9.9 million tonnes in 1972/73 to 19.1 million tonnes in 1990/91. This has been achieved through extensive cultivation of HYVs (High Yield Varieties) of rice and wheat with extensive use of fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation. The total area under irrigation has increased from 1.2 million hectares in 1973 to 3.1 million hectares in 1989 (Ministry Environment and Forest, Govt. of Bangladesh, 1991). Year round transplanted rice cultivation keeps the land water-logged continuously for many years. Fertilisers and some pesticides are leaching through the soil into shallow groundwater's. There is no available systematic studies on nitrate contamination in Bangladesh. A rapid increase in nitrate content is expected in the rural areas of Bangladesh. About 20 percent of the rural population obtain drinking water from surface sources, whereas the rest rely on shallow tube-wells (30-60 meter depth). High mortality death rate of children under the age of five indicating increasing pollutants in drinking waters. Maintaining high quality groundwater will require practical approaches to prevent contamination, because of the increasingly vast areas involved.

    The traditional varieties of rice such as Aman, Boro, Aus etc. are replaced in many areas by HYV. At present the farmers complains that a declining yield of HYV rice despite increasing use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Year round mono-cropping resulted in Bangladesh depletion of soil nutrients, formation of toxic compounds in soil and about 1.74 million ha land is deficient in essential nutrients (sulphur, zinc). This has caused 10 per cent crop reduction, 17 per cent for rice crop (Ministry of Environment and Forest, 1991).

    The Government and many Organisation in Bangladesh reported that the deterioration in soil fertility is attributed to continuous monocropping of rice, particularly HYV rice. The daily "Bhorer Kagag" reports on November 11, 1994 almost all HYV rice fields in the southern districts of Bangladesh are severely destroyed by the insects, whereas 16 districts of the northern part of Bangladesh seriously lacking of essential trace minerals (crop production will reduce to 40-50 % within the next three to four years).

    After the construction embankments, where the HYV cultivated, agricultural land does not receive fresh fertile sediments, algae and water that keep ground water level high during dry season, depleting natural soil to nutrient poor soil. The loss of vital nutrients like illite, montmorillonite clay minerals, silt, organic matters (nitrogen supplying algae) are compensated by chemical fertilisers. The environmental aspects of surface water development projects have been neglected by the planners and engineers. In the planning of projects farmers requirements and knowledge are not considered. Mainly engineers' decisions and designs are imposed on them (Khan,1987).

    For example under the Ganges-Kobadak Irrigation Project construction of flood embankments produced flowing rivers like Kumar, Kaliganga and Dakua to dead rivers which created a serious ecological disaster. Another example of ecological disaster is Horai River Sub-Project where in February 1989 the inlet of the Horai River at the Padma (Ganges) end closed down which resulted 20 beels (wetlands) of 9,000 acres dried up. Besides the loss of wetland prevented the annual recruitment of fish prawn and nutrient rich water from the Padma (Ganges) river. If the current trend continues, in twenty years about 2 million ha flood plains would have been permanently removed due to flood control and drainage development (Ministry of Environment and Forest, 1991). After China and India Bangladesh is the third largest country in the world in inland fisheries. But at present the average yields for inland fishery are low and declining by about 2.7 per cent a year. However, this decline have been offset by increased inland culture fisheries by the richer group of rural population. But the poorer group of the rural population (more than 80 per cent) who used to catch fish from the floodplains as the only source of animal protein is interrupted from this source due to structural measures and increasing surface water pollution. In 1960 average caloric intake in Bangladesh was more than 2,300 which reduced to 1,920 in year 1990. A large number of children in poor families become blind every year because of nonavaility of proper diet.

    In fact, the short and long term strategy of the supplying industry is to maximise the use of chemicals and use new biotechnique to broaden the applicability of pesticides. (Mooney et al.,1988). Chemical companies recognise that there is a bonanza awaiting manufacturers who can create seeds like herbicides. It is undoubted that "the green revolution" has opened the world wide market of the agrochemical industry.

    There were about 30,000 rice varieties cultivated by farmers in the Indian-Subcontinent and at present only 15 varieties comprise 75 percent of rice cultivation. Monoculture creates a market for crop chemicals. More advanced varieties of seed will lead to more toxic chemicals, greater risk for farmers, achieves only more environmental damage. Pat Mooney and Cary Fowler, the Noble Prize winners of 1985, described it as "genetic erosion", most prominent of all is the environmental erosion.

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    About 10 per cent of global population is living in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta and the population is increasing more than 2.6 per cent annually and the it will double in 27 years. In view of this the governments of this region have increased the production of chemical based agriculture (Monoculture) and rapid industrialisation programme without considering environmental impacts. The non-point sources of water pollution have increased tremendously and even if all the major industries and urban and municipal sewage obtain cleaning systems water quality will deteriorate due to non-point sources.

    India ranking among the ten most industrialised nation with GDP about 5-6 per cent yearly has brought unwanted and unanticipated consequences, including unplanned urbanisation, pollution and risk of accident. Most industrial plants use outdated, polluting technologies and makeshift facilities (Centre for Environment Education, India, 1992). It is praiseworthy that in 1985 India lauchned Ganga Action Plan when Prime Minister of India declared "we will restore the pristine purity of Ganga". The plan intends:

    · to intercept and treat raw sewage flowing directly into the river;
    · to ensure and enforce proper effluent treatment;
    · to promote and assist programmes for supply of protected drinking water, construction of latrines,
    and electric crematoria etc

    The Ganga Action Plan is a 532 cores Rupees project believes an expert of the Thames Water International that some of the quality norm set are questionable or may be unattainable (Verghese, 1990). The management problems are:

  • over 900 million litres of sewage is dumped into the Ganges daily,
  • installation of effluent treatment plants are expensive and premature closure can cost can displace workers . For example 2,500 tanneries discharge daily 80,000 cubic meter of waste.
    More than 90 per cent of tanneries are small and medium scale and are scatteredly situated which neither can set up individual effluent treat ment plants nor be included in a common effluent treatment plants (Rajamani, 1993). Besides most of the industries will not be profitable after constructing modern effluent treatment plants;
  • rapidly increasing amount of fertiliser, pesticides runoff from agriculture increasingly deteriorating surface and ground water quality. Non-point sources also include infiltration from the surface into vulnerable aquifers - seepage from underground and surface mining operations - and wet and dry deposition in lakes and aquifers. India's coal has a very high ash content (35-40 %), the disposal of which is a major problem (Centre for Environment, India, 1992).

    The Ganges transports 83 million tonnes of dissolved solid along with 2.5 per cent of global flux of sodium to the oceans, whereas the Brahmaputra transports 35 million tonnes of dissolved solid to the Bay of Bengal (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, India, 1987). 70 per cent of surface waters in India is seriously polluted (Sibert and Dutta, 1990 and Centre for Environment Education, India, 1992).

    The major rivers of India along with polluted load flow deltaic plain of Bangladesh and finally to the Bay of Bengal. In Bangladesh the combined flow of the Ganges and Brahmputra typically increasing from less than 10,000 cubic meter per second early in the year (dry season) to a peak of 80,000 to 140,000 cubic meter per second in late August or early September. Shortage of water in dry season is exacerbated by the diversion of Ganges at the Farakka Barrage, India. During dry period (November to April) surface water pollution increases especially down streams of Industries and cities. UNICEF (1986) reports that in 1983 there were over 57 million episodes of diarrhoea among children under five causing an estimated 200,000 child deaths. The National Cancer Society of Bangladesh on Nover 4, 1994 reports that about 800,000 persons are at present suffering from cancer and about 150,000 deaths annually occur in the country (Daily Sangbad, November 4, 1994). There is no study that correlates diseases to environmental impacts. But there is no doubt that most of the diseases are related with surface water pollution, as in Bangladesh vast majority of the rural population uses ponds and other surface sources and only 2-4 per cent of the population has a sanitary latrine.

    The present liberalised industrial policy in Bangladesh ignores environmental protection - private entrepreneurs do not require permission from any quarter. Banks in general accord permission to the project, if it is financial viable. With the increase of unplanned and socially and environmentally degraded industries Bangladesh poses a new challenge. Pollution and human-induced hazards are particularly serious in the developing nations, because industrial production is heavily and scatteredly concentrated in city regions or 'core regions' within each nation.

    The deterioration of surface water quality is a serious problem in this subcontinent and it will grow further if the present policy of industrialisation and agricultural practice continues. A recent study which covers most of the subcontinent shows that between 1890 and 1970, more than 30 million hectares of land were transformed from forest and grassland into areas of crop production and settlement (Tucker, 1988). Most of Bangladesh was originally forested, with coastal mangroves backed by swamp forests and a broad plain of tropical moist deciduous forests. Remnants of these forests, the Sunderbans, still the largest mangrove forest of the world is threatened (ODA inventory in 1983 reveals that Gewa and Sundri declined to 40-45 % since 1958-59) due to structural measures in the Ganges River and over-exploitation. Almost half of Bangladesh is wetland but the size of wetland is dramatically decreasing year by year.
    For example Chalan Beel (wetland) considered to be the largest wetland in Bangladesh, now covers only a quarter of 100,00 hectares that it covered 150 years ago. If the current trend continues, in twenty years 2 million ha of flood plain will be permanently removed (Ministry of Environment, 1991). Shrimp farming in Bangladesh rank third in earning foreign exchange (1983 production 2,200 tonnes, 1986 production 12,878 tonnes) contributed 10.94 % of total export earnings in 1988-89. This increase production accompanied by the destruction mangrove forests in the coastal region of Bangladesh (Anwar, 1993). In December 1994 the daily newspapers of Bangladesh reported a massive shrimp-kill in the coastal region due to unknown virus infection. Besides clearing mangrove forests and destroying aquatic larvae of coastal region, these shrimp farms threw about 23,000 metric tonnes of shrimp heads into the nearby waters every year without any regard for the decomposition, increase in BOD content, killing aquatic habitat and degrading drinking water quality.

    Apart from many other beneficial effects of forest and wetland, they improve water quality by toxic substances removal, conversion of inorganic material to organic material, metabolism of phosphorous, nitrogen and other nutrients, suspended solid removal and removal of pathogen etc. Destruction of natural water purification systems throughout the Ganges-Brahmaputra River system increasingly deteriorating surface and ultimately ground water of this region.

    The point and non-point sources of surface water pollution are creating chemical and biological contamination, channel contamination and basin contamination and the existing management efforts are incapable to meet the problems. CIDA (1988) describes that environmental policies in Bangladesh Governments plans and priorities are conspicuous by their absence and where they exist they are inadequate, outdated or unforceful. While the Government's proposed industrial pollution regulation is sensible, is implementation will require considerable technical and corruption-free management's. It will take decades for controlling the proposed act. The region requires:

    · pollution prevention and conservation of natural environments,
    · cheaper technology for effluent treatment and
    · social change for a sustainable development.

    Pollution Prevention and Conservation of Natural Environments

    While developing countries are rapidly increasing the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, in developed countries agricultural issue moving higher on the public's agenda is the use, and over-use, of pesticides and fertilisers. For example, the National Environmental Policy of Plan in the Netherlands sets an overall goal to reduce the use of fertilisers and pesticides - by the end of this decade the use of pesticides should be cut in half. A 1987 law in Denmark gives farmers financial support to develop or convert to organic farming. Whereas in Bangladesh structural measures to grow HYV (High Yield Varieties) of crops prevent nutrient rich flood-water to enter the fields, replaced by increasing use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. It may be mentioned that a bumper crop was recorded in Bangladesh after each major flood, when flood-water over-topped the embankments. The Ganges-Brahmaputra Rivers transport annually 2.9 billion tonnes (one third of global sediment transport) of nutrient rich sediments to the Bay of Bengal and there is no effort in the country to utilise this unique natural gift. Bangladesh urgently needs to develop improve farming techniques for traditional varieties under regulated flash of annual nutrient-rich flood waters in the agricultural land and reducing reliance on chemicals (Anwar, 1993).

    Recently Bangladesh School Text Book Board introduced environmental studies in the secondary schools, but the books are the older version of the geography curriculum. It is reported that many hazardous pesticides are used for the conservation of food, medicinal treatments etc. (Anwar, 1993). Bangladesh requires an education system that is understandable to rural population., that includes:

    · restore traditional heritage for the conservation of natural resources
    · environmental consciousness through unconventional methods
    · effective citizen participation in decision making
    · inclusion of environmental requirements at the earliest stage of decision rather than
    focusing on end-pipe solutions

    Cheaper Effluent Treatment Technology:

    Some studies report that most of the industries will not be profitable after installing modern effluent treatment plants. The conventional physical, chemical and biological treatment methods are very expensive and Bangladesh with is present resources can hardly afford such technology.

    Several studies on wastewater effluents (secondary sewage, drainage wastewater, livestock waste, industrial wastes etc.) have been investigated. Dymond in 1948 first suggested the possibility of using waterhyacinth for the removal of nutrients from wastewater effluents. Experimental studies show a high rate of absorption of several heavy metals from paper mill effluents, tannery wastes and fertiliser factory waste. Field studies in Mississippi report that waterhyacinth reduces suspended solids, nitrogen, phosphorous, faecal colioform (the presence of colioform organisms is regarded as evidence of faecal contamination since these organisms have their origin in the intensial tract of humans and other warm-blooded animals), and (BOD) Biological Oxygen Demand (McDonland et al., 1980). Dissolved oxygen perhaps the most commonly employed parameter of water quality, whereas with the increase with biological oxygen demand (BOD) due to increase in organic matter in water may lead to a low level of dissolved oxygen. A high BOD adversely affects fish and other aquatic life. Mosse and Chagas (1984) also found about 83.4% reduction in total coliforms and 89.6% reduction in fecal coliforms from sewage effluents passing through waterhyacinth ponds in Brazil.

    Most studies suggest that a simple passage of wastewater through a waterhyacinth pond improves water quality. The mechanisms involve in wastewater purification using waterhyacinth are similar to conventional treatment facilities. The waterhyacinth-covered wastewater receiving ponds represent a unique environment which is also stable if the water inflows and organic loading are steady. Every system of wastewater treatment units requires specific design and operation programme for maximum efficiency.

    The recent scientific studies on waterhyacinth advocate that instead of wasting valuable resources on control efforts, the weed should be turned an asset in the developing countries as it can combat water pollution. In Bangladesh conventional treatment of wastewater is not available and beyond economic means. As an inexpensive and affordable method the waterhyacinth can be used to reduce or eliminate suspended solids both organic and inorganic, nutrients, heavy metals, pesticides and organic compounds. The industries of industrial countries are interested to transfer expensive and ever dependable technology to the developing countries. On the other hand interested groups in the developing countries can not earn enough from such projects.

    Social Change

    More than 10 per cent of world's population lives in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta plain and if an average person in the South were to consume as much as an average person in a developed country, the environmental crisis would be unimaginable. The developing countries have so far followed strategies that are modelled after the experience of industrialisation of the developed societies. The developing countries fear that the concern for the environment would delay their material and social progress. However, it is now considered that the natural environment will soon be destroyed by biochemical pollution, if we do not change our present methods of producing goods. In developing countries the pollution of a river and the killing of its fish may often lead to famine, whereas the extreme pollution of the Rhine or the Great Lakes would not have a similar consequence for the neighbourhood population. The development projects in Bangladesh benefit richer society . The International Assistance Programme of the Government of the Netherlands comments on projects in Bangladesh (1978):

    A concentration on economic growth only benefited small groups in these societies, such as landlords, owners, managers in modernised industry and trade, and professional people and high officials in private and government circles. The contention that benefits of such a policy would automatically trickle down to large majorities proved to be untenable. On the contrary, it became clear that such policies widened still further the extremely large differences in the levels of living.

    The existing projects mainly concern for the betterment of a privileged section of the population, whereas the poor continue to be the enemy, misunderstood and blamed for circumstances beyond their control. Our cultural patterns have been disrupted and our societies have become unstable. The economic situation and the policy and development system of the country are responsible for the threating environmental situation. The suffering of the poor in Bangladesh continued to imposed by global capital, which insists on taking wealth out of our country to pay interest on debts, instead of allowing the amount spent on poverty-focused projects. In 1989 developing countries received $ 92 billion in official development assistance; they paid out $ 142 billion servicing their debts, which totalled $ 1,165 billion at the end of that year. In other words, the developing countries gave to the First $ 50 billion more than it received (Strake, 1990). Export prices of industrial countries reflect the costs of environmental damage and of controlling that damage, where as in the developing countries costs borne in the form of damage costs to human health, property, and ecosystem. There are many toxic chemicals that are banned in the developed countries, but these are allowed to export to the developing countries. The poor farmers of this subcontinent use many no-name varieties of toxic pesticides as they are cheaper.

    Since twenty years Bangladesh has received about 22 billion US dollars, where 75 per cent of the amount immediately returned to the aid giving countries as expert fees and equipment purchase. Prof. Yunus, founder of Grammen Bank, comments that the situation of the poor has not all improved, where as the projects kept poverty to continue. Since independence aid giving organisations and NGOs are working to eliminate poverty in the country. When they initiated the programme the landless peasants were 37 per cent and now according to a Government report it is 58 per cent. Whereas an official source reports uneducated persons are increasing to 5,000 each day . It shows clearly the result of their works.. Prof. Yunus comments, Government programme to educate every one in Bangladesh is targeted to achieve in year 2,000, but I think to reach year 2000, it will require us 5,000 years.

    In spite of billion dollars of investment by the WMF and the World Bank, the lives of fifth of the world's people are gradually worsening. The reasons of our poverty are not corruption, superstition and ignorance, but the main reasons derive from the determination of the developed countries to pursue ever-rising living standards and from the logic of the global economic system that provides them with their affluence. First World's superior effective demand enables them to secure many of the resources produced in the developing countries and to ensure that the industries built their are the industries that will produce the things that First World want, rather than things that will produce things we need, and in many cases a new market is produced which has any demand or need in the developing countries.

    Prof. Mary E. Clark of San Diego State University, USA (1993) on "Changes in Euro-American values Needed for Sustainability" describes :

    By seeing only what we wish to see, by supposing we know far more than we do, we are ignoring the multiple signals of social, psychic, and environmental deterioration that constantly increase. This cultural refusal to "see" is a process that has happened before in history... The underlying beliefs and assumptions are taught in the upper school and universities of almost every country in the world, all of which have fallen under the intellectual spell of the North

    Thus, the elite of most nations hold similar, Western ideas of about society, about Nature, and about consequent future direction of the planet. For example Universities in Bangladesh do not make any study or research on how to improve houses in the villages (90% of the population) that can stand flood or severe cyclone. Our ideas and decisions come from the city, and rarely filter down to villages in crisis. What we need to see happening is a reversal - an ecological sensibility that starts at the village level. Bishnoi in Rajasthan, India with simple code of life are the only group survived the recent drought without any apparent impact. Grameen (Village) Bank in Bangladesh has also shown that without much resource and technology economic and environmental situation of the poor can be improved, because initiatiatives started from the root of the society.

    If the goals of development of the developing countries remain the same as they are, or were, for the industrialised societies, then any new strategy of development, whether ecological or otherwise, might become no more than a mere modification of the present policies and trends rather than genuine trend.The developed countries fail to carry conviction because they do not seek seriously and systematically to change their own structures, and profound changes in attitudes, life styles, and approaches.

    The magnitude of the destructive impact of our society on the sustainabilty of the planet, both ecologically and socially, is extreme. And the changes needed in its value-systems are profound. If the society of North and South does not want to see, feel, and act according to global and regional reality, our blue planet will not survive.

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    Subramanian, V. and Cauwet, G. (1988): Carbon Transport by the Himalayan Rivers; in Biogeochemistry of Major World Rivers, Ed. by E.T. Degens and S. Kempe, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

    Verghese, B. G. (1990): Waters of Hope; Academic Publishers, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Yunus, M. (1994): Remove Obstacle, Let Human to Proceed Forward; in Bengali, Mowla Brothers, Dhaka Bangladesh.

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    Last modified; August 31, 2006