dhaka trafficNew approaches are needed to halt the country's rapid environmental decline. Will the country muster the political will to change before time runs out? Environmental degradation in Dhaka city is pervasive, accelerating, and unabated, putting at risk people's health and livelihood and hampering the economic growth needed to reduce the level of poverty of the country. The country has already lost up to 90 per cent of its original wild life habitat to agriculture, infrastructure, and deforestation. Four in five city dwellers lack access to safe drinking water within 1000 meters of home.

Air and water pollution is a major cause of respiratory and stomach ailments and premature death in the city. The poor, particularly children and women, suffer most from the accelerating urban and rural environmental degradation. Asia is the home of two third of the world's poor. The poor are especially vulnerable to lack of access to clean water and inadequate sanitation systems.

Country Garbage Profile

In 223 municipality including the 4 metropolitan cities there are about 40 million city dwellers producing about 20000 tons of solid and liquid waste; 50% of which is not collected regularly, leave aside treated. The garbage collection budget for Dhaka City is TK. 250 million, despite of that about 58% of the garbage remain uncollected and in other cities 30-40% garbage remain uncollected. One survey has revealed that on average about 600 grams of garbage were produced by each Dhaka city dwellers last year, of which 70% was accounted from vegetables and fruit, polythene, plastic, rubber and tannery related garbage about 4.17%, grass, shrubs about 10,76%, trash papers, cloth about 8.86%, sands, dust, brick pebbles about 5.1%, wood, glass and metals about 0.51%. The per capita solid waste in the city/town area in creased by about 8.96%. Solid waste growth rate in Dhaka city per day/per person is about 0.60 k.g, Chittagong and other old divisional head quarters 0.50 k.g., new divisional head quarters 0.40 k.g., greater district head quarters 0.3 k.g. and in other towns 0.20. Surprisingly there is no fund for garbage collection in Rangamati municipality

City Population Projection

Dhaka will turn into the 4th largest city in the world by 2015 having 23.00 million population but will remain as the dirtiest city in the world. While Mumbai will be the largest mega city having 28.2 million population, followed by Tokyo with 26.4 million. Lagos 23.2 million, Sao Paulo 20.4 million, Karachi 19.8 million, Mexico City 19.2 million, Delhi 17.8 million New York 17.4 million and Jakarta 17.3 million.

Mismanagement Profile of Dhaka City Wastes

Management of the city's rubbish was hardly ever remarkable. An army of 5000 employees of the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) and 107 trucks are now engaged in the disposal of the city's refuse, the job gets never done in any manner of satisfaction. Of the 3000 tons of garbage the city produces daily, the rag-pickers collect approximately 1000 tons in the form of junk and other non-perishable or convertible materials. The DCC fleet is responsible for the safe disposal of the remaining 2000 tons of trash, mostly perishable refuse.

There are 277 tanneries spreading in about 10 square miles which accounts for about 90% of the tanneries of the industry. Of the 98 tons of solid waste of this industry in the country 88 tons alone come from Hazaribag, Dhaka of the 8.47 million liter liquid waste of this sector a year about 7.47 million liter alone comes from Hazaribag area. The waste contains about 300 types of Chemicals and the quantity of salt, alkali and acid is between 1.50-13.00. About 6000 sweepers are engaged for sweeping Dhaka city streets. It is reported in a study that only 50%-60% staffs are available for actual work on an any particular day. 30% of the staff does not report in duty after 7 days of receiving their wages, while about 20% of the staff remains on replacement duty on mutual understanding.

Buriganga Murder

"Buriganga you die, you are old, you were named old"

About 6000-m poisonous wastes is thrown to the river Buriganga everyday, from 158 tanneries in Dhaka city. At present in the river Buriganga contains 60 times higher chromium than the permissible limit. Another report said that 16000 tons of poisonous waste from Hazaribag tanneries and 3000 tons of poisonous waste from Tajgaon area are thrown in to the river Buriganga every day.

There used to be about 6 million polythene bags in use in the city alone daily, of which 20% is recovered and the remainder left lying around us causing health hazard, water logging, environment pollution etc. About 330 million cubic meter waste has been polluting the lakes and rivers of Dhaka city and about 49% of the waste alone goes to the river Buriganga, and about 88% accounts for human waste.

City Road Scenario

About 3000 tons of solid waste is thrown on the roadsides of Dhaka city. In an UN repo0rt it has revealed that about 25000 people die every year in Dhaka city alone only because of various pollution. Dhaka City Corporation has 190 garbage carrying trucks of which on average 60-70 trucks remain out of order. There are 414 mobile garbage container and 128 vehicles to carry those of which 90 vehicles are in order.

Air Pollution Scenario

Air pollution kills an estimated 2.70-3.00 million people every year throughout the world which is about 6% of all annual deaths. About 9 deaths in e3very 10 due to air pollution take place in the developing world, where about 80% of all people live. Again out of this 2.70 million. 1.60+million die from Asian countries only. Dhaka accounts for 15000 deaths due to air pollution annually. About 6.5 million people of 4 major cities of Bangladesh annually suffer from respiratory infection due to air pollution only. Diarrhoea is no more the major disease in Bangladesh. Around 1000 metric tons of pollutants are pumped into the air of Dhaka city alone every day of which 70% emanates from vehicles.

Different toxic wastes emitted by an estimated 120000 two stroke three wheelers, faulty vehicles and toxic fumes from over 1500 brick fields around the city is a big threat to the city dwellers life. The density of lead in the air of Dhaka is about 463 nanograms per cubic meter, which is 10 times more than the acceptable standard and several times more than the Mexico City. The World Health Organization estimates that about 700000 deaths annually could be prevented in developing countries if three major atmospheric pollutants-carbon monoxide, suspended particulate matter and lead were brought down to a safer level.

Sound Pollution Scenario

In a report of the Directorate of Environment that the sound intensity even near hospitals, clinics and educational institutions is between 67.19 decibels and 73.15 decibels, whereas the acceptable limit is 45 decibel. Hydraulic horn is the most dangerous one for sound pollution.

Liquid Waste Scenario

The existing sewer network of Dhaka WASA covers only 30% of its service area, and there has been no expansion of is network in the last 15 years despite environmental hazards. The existing sewer lines serves only 20% of the city dwellers and the remaining 80% without sewer facility. About 65000-70000 cubic meters of sewer either flow into the city's water bodies and canals or into the river Buriganaga daily. The network of about 632 kilometres is supposed to carry about 1.2 lakh cubic meters of sewer daily but only 50000-550000 cubic meters flow into the only sewer treatment plant of DWASA sewer treatment plant at Pagla daily. DWASA has now only 48000 sewerage connections although the system was introduced in 1923. The city needs at least 3155 k.m. of sewerage line.

Solid Waste Scenario

Solid Waste mismanagement has been a great concern for the city dwellers. The city corporation spends 20-40% of their revenues, employing 1-2 workers per 1000 persons on solid waste management!! Rather for mismanagement. Presently only half of the waste is collected and disposed, the rest are left on the streets or find the way into drains or low lying areas causing serious damages to health and environment. About 3500 tons of solid waste is generated every day in Dhaka city of which only 1800-2000tons are collected daily.

The city streets are littered with garbage; the communal bins are spilled over by the wastes creating a messy scenario. In some cases local community based waste collection schemes are a shining light but the secondary collection points are terribly gloomy. Solid waste mismanagement is directly related to city dwellers health and hygiene and environment. Dumping of untreated solid and hazardous wastes from industries destroy the flora and fauna of the ecosystem and causes of surface3 and ground water contamination. Reported solid waste generation in Dhaka city varies between 3500 tons-5000 tons/day. Out of this 3500 tons 1800 tons are collected and dumped by DCC, 900 tons go to backyard and land fills, 400 tons go to road side and open space, 300 tons are recycled by the rag pickers, and 100 tons are recycled at the generation point. Solid waste could reach 15000 tons a day by the year 2020.

Commercial and industrial sources contribute about 20% each. Solid wastes from hospitals and clinics account for between 0,50% to 6.7% of the total solid waste. Another estimate said 22% of total solid waste comes from street sweepings. According to DCC estimate residential waste account for 49% commercial waste 21% industrial waste 24% and hospital waste 6% of the total solid waste. Of the estimated daily total disposal of about 2585 m3, about 2305m3 are dumped at the Matuail site, about 273 m3 at Mirpur site, and 7.5 m3 at Lalbag site.

Medical Waste Scenario

Disposal pattern of medical waste in our hospitals and clinics is seriously alarming. Of the 3500 metric tons of garbage generated per day in Dhaka city nearly 200 metric tons originate from hospitals and clinics. 20% i.e. 40 metric tons of medical waste originating everyday are infectious and hazardous. Due to use of toxic chemicals and hazardous materials used for numerous diagnostic and treatment purposes. This causes disease either directly or indirectly by contamination of surface water, ground water, solid and air. There has been little research or no research on waste disposal, leave aside on medical waste disposal. Wastes remain in open bins even for several days before those are collected. Human body parts were also found in open bins. Some unscrupulous hospital and clinic people generate extra income by selling used syringe and some other used medical wastes. Medical wastes are of; Infectious wastes, Anatomic wastes, Sharps, Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Genotoxic, Vaccine, Radioactive and others with high heavy metal contents. There exist more than 60 clinics in Dhanmondi area alone. Dhaka has turned to be a city of Shops and Clinics but without salesmanship and medicare services respectively. Clinics are also shops here; it has become more an immoral business in Bangladesh than services to the suffering humanity.

BARC in association with ARDS conducted a study on hospital waste management in Dhaka city. Out of the 26 government hospitals, 133 private hospitals and clinics and 318 diagnostic centers in the city the study investigated the waste disposal practices in 11 private clinics, 13 diagnostic centers with laboratories, and 14 government medical facilities. The study found that a variety of methods such as, burning, burying, selling, dumping, reuse and removal from municipal bins were used by the medical facilities to dispose off waste.

Hospital and clinic staffs are either ignorant or careless about the consequences of hospital waste. Most healthcare workers possess only a rudimentary understanding of healthcare and do not perceive handling or disposal of medical waste as hazardous in any way. According to the US Army center for Health and Preventive Medicine. Medical waste must be separated from regular or general waste right from the point of generation and be continued during storage, transportation and treatment.

Cost effective suggestions to improve the hospital waste management may include training to hospital staff, segregation of waste at the point of generation, use of different colored bags for collection of hazardous and non-hazardous waste and enactment of law inclusive of financial punishment provision and it's strict application.

Human Waste Scenario

n Bangladesh human waste (excreta) has been identified as the major contributor to environmental pollution due to inadequate sanitation coverage and waste treatment system. The over all sanitation coverage is around 40%, meaning the rest 60% of the 150 million people lack sanitation facilities. This in turn means that the excretes wastes by this huge 90 million people enter the environment in an uncontrolled manner. Thus assuming an average of 1.50 kg of excreta per person per day, it stands that an estimated 135000 tons of humans excreta are exposed to the environment daily. Such a huge quantity of excreta exerts a tremendous demand of about 1850 tones of oxygen per day on the environment.

Most tannery workers work in a sickening environment. While working at different stages of leather processing, they get directly exposed to harmful chemicals and hazardous waste. Acidic emissions emanating from the effluents contain the potential for causing serious respiratory ailments. Inhalation of poisonous sulphuric acid might cause damage to lungs. A big tannery produces 125 kg of shaving dust a day on average which contain chromium and causes nagging headaches cough and bronchitis. Shaving dust is usually dumped untreated in from of the factories in violation of environmental laws. At the pickling stage, all tannery workers are too vulnerable to health hazards as the limiting of 'pH' between 2.5-3.6.

In a survey conducted by the Department of Environment in 1994 revealed that every liter of water lifted from tube wells in Hazaribag area contained 0.2 to 0.4 mg chromium, as against the allowable limit of 0.05 mg/liter.

City Water Body Scenario

Clean technology can help reduce environmental pollution. But the industries do not have adequate knowledge of clean technology. They are icily indifferent about this new method. The application of clean technology entails technical skills and free flow of information. In mid1995, Dhanmondi Lake was on the verge of disaster when polluted wastes from the city's two storm sewerages were allowed to overflow into the lake water. About 44 drains and 14 storm sewerages have illegal connections to the lake.

Poly Waste Scenario

There are about 300 poly-bag manufacturers in the country producing about 1500 tons of products every day. Poly-bag industries account for 250 industries in Dhaka city alone. About 5 million bags are used daily in Dhaka city alone and another 5 million bags are used in the rest of the country daily making a total of 10 million bags. Poly bag can affect Soil Pollution. Water Pollution and Air Pollution. It also seriously contaminates food when in direct contact and causes dermatitis when in prolonged contact with skin. Another report said there are 800 poly bag manufacturers in the country employing 40000 people producing 129 million bags per day. Of the 5-6 million poly bags used in Dhaka city only 20% is recovered and the remainder left lying around. A newspaper report said there are 1500 plastic products factories of which 400 are poly bag manufacturers and produce about 130 million poly bags a day and about 10 million of those are throne as waster on the street, drains etc. Total investment in the sector is about TK. 2250 million. Banning of Poly bag use is still an eye wash only.

Industrial Waste Scenario

There are about 6000 big and medium as well as 24000 small industrial plants in the country the industrial dregs of these plants are being deposited into our water bodies, causing serious health hazards. The country has only 4 water treatment plants. There are about 300 types of industries in Dhaka city. From Tejgaon industrial area alone about 12000 cubic meter untreated industrial wastes per day are disposed.

Not only Bangladesh lacks adequate and effective waste management facilities, it also lacks policies to guide health services providers and punish the offenders. There is no specific clause pertaining directly to handling, transporting or disposal of medical waste in the environmental protection Act 1995. Medical waste, can however be classified under section 2 (1), which defines waste, "any liquid, solid and radioactive substance that is discharged, disposed or dumped which may cause adverse/negative change to the environment."


Public-Private-Community Partnership (PPCP) concept should be there for environmental upgradation

Biodegradable polythene may be there only for packing, but not for bag.

Polythene recycling proposal must not be accepted, while present poly-bag use is a simple eye wash only.

As BJMC is able to produce 18.50 million bags everyday and 60-70 textile mills are closed their idle capacity can be explored to make bags for permanent replacement of poly bags.

People's participation through environmental education. Adoption of 4R principles (Reduce, Reuse, Repair, and Recycle) under the umbrella of "Think Over and Saving Resources" motto of the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority.

Environmental Education programme from primary to university level; Clean and Green Candy programme of philippines and Garbage to Gardens programme of Bengalore may be followed.

The only legal document for waste management Municipal Ordinance-83" must be amended to suite the necessity of the day. Strict enforcement of law (The waste management policy of Philippines is well defined with a provision of fines in money. Or community service or blood donation for its violation).

Youth Service Programme should be introduced

Effective Monitoring System for Accountability.

Introduction of Environmental Auditing System by Environmental Experts.

The environmental policy 1992, municipal ordinance, Bangladesh Environmental Conservation Act. 1995 and Rules-1997, National Policy for safe Water Supply and Sanitation-1998 must be implemented meticulously.

All buildings must be constructed following the Building Construction Act. 1952. Rules 1996and the Town Improvement Act, 1953.

Community based house to house waste collection.

Organic waste recycling.

Clinical and hospital waste disposal system law.

ntensifying activities of Civil Society and environmental awareness group.

Development of micro-enterprise in waste recovery and recycling.

Effective media role.

Leather Processing and Health Hazards:

Stage Chemical Health Risks
Soaking NaC1 Diarrhoea, stomach problems, nausea
Unhairing/liming KOH, Na2So3/bi Sulphide Respiratory disorders, bronchitis, skin diseases, headache
Deliming/bating Na2So3, NH4C1, Na2So4 Burning eyes, nose, throat high blood pressure, bronchitis
Picling H2SO4, H-COOH, NaC1 Wounds leading to Cancer
Chrome Tanning Wounds leading to Cancer
Sammying, splitting Dyes, fixing, agent, Condensation of urea Respiratory complications
Buffing Liquid pigment, polymer, fixative, preservatives and aromatic ingredients. Cancer
Shaving, dyeing

Source: Prof Feroz I Faruqui, The Bangladesh Observer, Monday, June 17 2002

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