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Quiet flows the Karnaphuli

06 June 2014 bdnews24.com

Once a turbulent fast flowing river, the Karnaphuli is facing a fate similar to the Buriganga's -- what with unending pollution caused by mindless dumping of wastes from factories and ever-increasing human settlements along its course.
There are about 700 factories, an oil-fired power plant and settlements accommodating 6 million people along the banks of Karnaphuli, considered the lifeline of Chittagong.
The Department of Environment (DoE) has fined 10 manufacturing companies located along the Karnaphuli Tk 100 million during its anti-pollution drive in the last six months.
But that has not helped at all.
Pollution continues unabated in the river Karnaphuli, the source of water for Chittagong city. "The 88-km long river in Bangladesh territory is quite vital for Chittagong. The Karnaphuli survives because it still has high and low tides," DoE Chittagong divisional director Md Jafar Alam said.
He claimed not all factories on both banks of the river were polluting water.
Some had set up Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP) and others were pushed to do so by the DOE. Untreated waste of two power plants and the Karnaphuli Paper Mill at Kaptai, daily household wastes and sewage continue to flow into the river through different canals, Alam said.
Moreover some untreated wastes of the city corporation area are also polluting the river, the DoE official said.
According to a 2010 DoE survey, 141 small and big factories on both the banks are responsible for directly pollution. Among them, 35 factories were in the Red List as severe polluters.
The Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) collects 1500 tonnes of wastes every day from households.
The way they are casually dumped, some of it flows into the river. And some wastes are directly dumped into the river.
Endangered biodiversity
If the rate of diluted oxygen (DO) in the water is below 6 milligram, it is considered dangerous for water-based animals and plants because it threatens their survival, experts say.
But the DO rate in the Karnaphuli is decreasing gradually.
The DoE recently found a 5.1 milligram DO in a litre of water from the Karnaphuli.
In April, DO was found to be as low as 3.73 milligram in the river.
As many as 76 varieties of fish were available in the river Karnaphuli, according to a research conducted by a professor of the Institute of Marine Science at Chittagong University in 1976.
But the DoE says now only 20 varieties of sweet water fish and 10 varieties of mixed water fish are available.
Many are on the verge of extinction while the existence of the remaining 20 varieties is endangered.
In a keynote paper presented at a seminar organised by the DoE marking the World Environment Day, it was said that 18 local varieties of fish have already gone extinct on the Karnaphuli.
Besides, six local varieties of fish like Ruhi are also likely to become scarce, the keynote paper said.
Integrated move
Chittagong's environment movement activist Sharif Chouhan believes inadequate monitoring explains growing pollution in the river Karnaphuli and if it continues it would face the similar fate of the river Buriganga.
Chouhan pitched for an integrated effort to save the river.
DoE Chittagong divisional director Jafar Alam said the government and private organisations would have to realise the importance of the river and join hands to save it. He also stressed the need for raising awareness among the people.
Alam also thinks the Chittagong WASA should set up sewerage treatment plant on an emergency basis for treating sewage of the residents to ensure they do not flow into the river untreated.
All this to ensure the Karnaphuli does not go quiet -- and dies.

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