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20 February, 2019 12:47:28 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 20 February, 2019 11:03:07 AM
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Untreated wastes enter Bangladesh through Agartala border

Local people cannot even rear ducks as the animals die when they come into contact with canal water contaminated with heavy metals, like lead, chromium and iron
ANISUR RAHMAN KHAN back from Akhaura Border
Untreated wastes enter Bangladesh through Agartala border

Vast areas of arable land in Akhaura area of Brahmanbaria district are under threat due to dumping of untreated poisonous waste from India’s Agartala. Expressing deep concern, Bangladesh has raised the issue before the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) and drawn the attention of the Indian authorities.

The untreated industrial, household and medical waste is being dumped into the Akhaura canal that enters Bangladesh through the Agartala-Akhaura border. The stinky waste spreads in the Akahura area and finally reaches the Titas River through the Kalondi, Kalikapur and Sonarbadi canals.

The Department of Environment (DoE) has conducted a test of the canal water and found the presence of heavy metals like lead, chromium and iron.

During a recent visit, this correspondent found stinky jet black water, along with plastic bottles and polythene, entering Bangladesh through the Akhaura border.

Some Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) personnel, on condition of anonymity, told this correspondent that the canal water stinks.

“Sometimes it becomes unbearable for us to perform our duty. At times, the canal overflows. We have informed the higher authorities, but no remedy as yet,” one of them said.   

Amir Hossain, a local farmer of Kalikapur village, said: “The odour of the canal water is very bad. We are suffering from skin diseases after coming into contact with this water. It is difficult for us to work in the field and houses near the canal during the dry season due to the foul odour.”

Many farmers have to use the canal water for irrigation purposes to minimise their production cost, he said in reply to a query.

“We have tested the canal water at various points. The presence of dissolved oxygen (DO) is very low. The DO level is only 0.24-0.36 mg/L, against the standard 5mg/L in canal water. Besides, the presence of heavy metals, like lead, chromium and iron was found,” Mosabber Hossain Muhammad Rajib, assistant director of the DoE in Brahmanbaria district told The Independent last week.

Local people cannot rear ducks as the animals die when they come into contact with the canal water, the DoE

official said. Rajib said: “The local farmers are also suffering from various skin diseases as they use the canal water for irrigation purposes.”

The water is the breeding ground of mosquitoes, flies and other insects round the year, Rajib said. “People face breathing problems when passing or working beside the canal. Besides, senior officials have to face embarrassing situations during inspection of the land port. Personnel of the BGB continuously face such problems.”

The issue was discussed during a technical level JRC meeting between the two countries. Bangladesh's concern was conveyed to India, JRC member Md Mofazzal Hossain told this correspondent.

“The Indian authorities have assured us several times that it would construct an effluent treatment plant (ETP) to treat the waste before releasing it in the water. We are yet to confirm whether this has been done,” the JRC member said in reply to a query.

When contacted, Hyat-ud-Doula Khan, deputy commissioner of Brahmanbaria, said: “We are looking into the matter. Steps will be taken after discussion.”

Trans-boundary water pollution is taking place in downstream rivers in Bangladesh, as most of them originate in the upstream, Abdus Sobhan, former additional director general of the DoE, told this correspondent.

Sobhan, who is also general secretary of Poribesh Bachao Andolan (POBA), said: “The government has to take steps, otherwise, the heavy metals may enter the human body through food.”

Considering the serious consequences of the discharged poisonous water, the government should take up the issue with India and urge it to manage the canal water properly before discharging it into Bangladesh through the canal, he added.

Moharana Choudhury of the Department of Environmental Science, Tezpur University, and McDonald Choudhury of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited in India have jointly written an article on "Trends of Urban Solid Waste Management in Agartala City". It was published in the Universal Journal of Environmental Research and Technology in 2014 (Volume 4, Issue 4). Environmental-friendly disposal of municipal waste is not often practised in developing nations like India. With the rapid growth of population, along with the expansion of residential areas and infrastructure development, the inhabiting environment is getting affected. Poor management and lack of scientific approach in the dumping process are the major hindrances on the way of the MSW process.

However, unsuitable placement of dumping yards in inappropriate areas is another obstacle found in the case of Agartala city, as it is growing very fast. As per the 2011 census, population of the city was 3,99,688, with a density of 6,251/Sq km.

Around 260 MT (metric tonnes) of urban solid waste is generated every day from more than 90,000 households, including household (10%) commercial, including industrial (12%) construction debris, including thrown sweeping (50%), electronic waste (2%), respectively “As Agartala city does not have an underground sewage collection and sewage treatment system, the untreated sewage directly mixes into several drainage channels of the city and finally goes to the “Haora  River”,  “Khatakhal  River”  and the “Akhaura” channel.

This results in severe degradation of the water quality, which is also reported by monitoring the physic-chemical and bacteriological parameters of the river  water upstream and downstream of the city of Agartala,"  Subhro Sarkar and Umesh Mishra said in their article (2014).

They also said that the Central Pollution Control  Board  (Report  2010)  identified the river side, along with the city of Agartala, for the  “Haora River” to  be one of  the polluted minor river basins in India and suggested that measures should be taken immediately.

An open dumping ground is also creating problems from an environmental point of view. Contamination of ground water, as well as surface  water, is taking place, as was reported from the “Hapania area”. (Debasree  Purkayastha and Sumanta Chakrabarti. 2014). This area had been used as a solid waste dumping ground for the last 40 years. It is now used as a biomedical waste disposal site.

The problem of waste management is becoming more complicated due to the improper and unscientific disposal of  solid waste, mostly in open dumping  site (Rajkumar, et al, 2010), which may result in contamination of ground water (Kamboj. N, & Choudhury. M, 2013). Open dumping sites generally attract birds, rodents and fleas, and accordingly, result in unhygienic condition of the surrounding area of the dumping site (Suchitra,  2007).

The estimated amount of waste generation in Agartala city was approximately 200 tonnes per day. It has been noticed that the urban population of India has increased from 26% in 2001 to 32% in 2011 (Census of India, 2011)—this has resulted in the rapid increase of waste generation.

Owing to the negligence of the municipalities towards the solid waste management process, it has become a serious environmental issue for collection, transportation and disposal. In India, the Solid Waste Management Rule 2013 presents an improved solid waste management process as per international standards.


IK

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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