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Environment - The 1st Priority for Sustainable Bangladesh

31 October 2021
Environment - The 1st Priority for Sustainable Bangladesh

Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder :
Industrialisation is one of the major elements of the structure of changing the society. The society has gradually become dependent on industrial production from agricultural production. Sometimes Industrialisation is also considered as the key to development. At the center of this change is the use of technology and machinery in the production system. Industrialisation brings a touch of technology to society; as a result, change can be noticed in every aspect of society. Industrialisation has brought about far-reaching changes in people's livelihoods. Although industrialisation was invented as a part of the socio-economic process, the term environmental is now closely associated with the term industrialisation, where the industrialization is taking place, the environment is being harmed. Developing countries like Bangladesh are not lagging in this industrialisation. The manufacturing sector of the industry is expanding to meet the upward demand of the growing population. Various types of industrial factories are being set up in different parts of Bangladesh. Notable industries are tanneries and garments. On the other hand, due to the development of the architectural industry, various types of construction materials have to be supplied for new installations. Brick and cement are one of the major building materials. Every industry is polluting the soil, water, air, rivers, and groundwater in different ways. Various studies by the Center for Atmospheric Pollution (CAPS) have found that more than 50 per cent of total air pollution, about 60 per cent of river pollution, and about 30 per cent of noise pollution are caused by different industries and factories.
Environmental Pollution from the Tannery Industry
As Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country, a large number of cows and goats are sacrificed during the holy Eid-ul-Azha. In addition, animal meat is bought and sold throughout the year, as a result of which the process of production and supply of leather in the country is constantly increasing. The leather sector started its journey as a business in the forties, when businessman Ranada Prasad Saha (RP Saha) was the first to set up a tannery near Narayanganj. Later, in October 1951, the tannery industry was established on the initiative of the then government at Hazaribagh, after that the leather industry in Bangladesh gained a lot of foreign exchange in the post-independence period. In the late 1990s, the production of processed leather as well as shoes, travel bags, belts, or wallets, and other leather goods led to a diversification of export products in the leather sector which played an important role in earning foreign exchange. The leather industry of Bangladesh is considered as a big export product but if we think about the leather industry and environmental problems, the environment is being polluted due to the lack of ecological system in leather processing and production of products in the country. Liquid waste from industry is contaminating its surrounding reservoirs and groundwater. In addition, unplanned open dumping stations dump tannery waste and pollute the area around the industrial city. From 1990-2017, about 90 per cent of the leather industry was in the densely populated Hazaribagh area of Dhaka. Leather factories have been poisoning the soil, water, and air of Hazaribagh for years. Not only that, the liquid waste from the leather industry has polluted the water of the River Buriganga. It begins to be implemented. At present, the Central Waste Treatment Plant (CETP) of the leather industry city of Savar has started production of 125 tanneries without full operation. There are 205 plots and 155 tanneries in Savar leather city.
One of the two main causes of tannery-based pollution is to have no solid waste disposal system and the second is to use excessive water for processing rawhides. Different types of liquid and solid waste contaminate different elements of the environment in a few steps of leather processing. In this case, the liquid waste discharged during the wetting process contains a large amount of sodium chloride, dissolved protein, organic matter, dust, dirt and dung, which creates a foul odor, resulting in air pollution. In addition, the sodium chloride and chemicals present in the waste cause soil and water pollution. The waste emitted in the liming process contains alkali, sulfide, calcium carbonate, proteins that mix with the water and contaminate the water. Again, from the process of diluting and tanning process, the liquid waste mixed with ammonium and chromium dissolves in water and soil. Pigments, oils, greases are made to dye various leather products. Later, these liquid wastes get mixed in the surrounding reservoirs or rivers and contaminate the river water. At different times this fluid mixes with groundwater and changes its quality.      

On the other hand, excessive water use is putting additional pressure on the city's Central Influencer Treatment Plant (CETP) or the Central Waste Treatment Plant. Where about 30,000 liters of water is required for modifying per ton of raw leather but it uses more than 50,000 liters of water. As a result, CETP fails to properly treat the liquid wastewater and that untreated water is flowing into Dhaleshwari. There are three rivers (Buriganga, Dhaleshwari and Singha) flowing through Keraniganj Upazila. Of these, the Buriganga and Dhaleshwari Rivers continue to flow, but the Singha River is almost dead in recent times. On the other hand, Buriganga and Dhaleshwari Rivers are constantly getting polluted. According to Jugantar, the area of the dumping yard is very small as compared to 155 tanneries of BSCIC.  
The dumping yard is disposing of the solid waste produced by the tannery such as animal ears, tail, horns, bones, fur, cut pieces of skin, meat membranes, etc. In this dumping yard, the waste of 113 factories has increased and now it has become a huge waste and the last address of this waste is Dhaleshwari. This waste is polluting the river water as well as spreading a strong stench in the area. In addition to liquid waste during skin processing, there are some solid wastes - such as animal ears, tails, horns, bones, fur, cut pieces of skin, flesh membranes, etc. These liquid and solid wastes are dumped in the same pipeline of the factory. Some of it was dumped in the dumping yard at Hemayetpur Harindhara area in the BSCIC leather industrial city project with a total land area of 194.40 acres. Of this, only 17 acres have been allotted for CETP and only 6 acres have been allotted for solid waste dumping yard which is not enough at all. The leather industry needs to enable CETP to protect it from contamination and then introduce it, as well as the benefits of adequate water use, increase the amount of land in solid waste dumping yards and take effective steps to make the city environmentally friendly. However, at the meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change held at Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban on August 23, 2021, the Ministry of Industries and Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation were recommended to close the tannery complex run by BSIC. The committee has taken this decision after inspecting the leather industrial city and seeing the overall condition. On the other hand, BSCIC needs to give a clear explanation as to why the Savar Tannery Complex will not be closed. This whole issue is still under overall consideration.
Environmental Pollution from the Garment Industry
One of the identities of a civilised person is his dress. Once upon a time, people wore white clothes, they had white minds. The atmosphere was colorful in its colour. Suddenly a touch of colour came to the white mind of the people. People were attracted to blue cotton. Originally the colour blue came from the blue tree, but it was completely natural. Gradually, an aggressive attitude was seen in the white-minded people intoxicated by the coloured cloth, and the surrounding environment began to fade with the artificial colour on the white cloth. The plainclothes came with colourful designs. When artisans failed to supply handmade garments to meet the needs of the people, a mechanical system, called the modern textile mill, emerged. Water is one of the most widely used materials in the textile industry. Apart from industrial processes, cotton is also used extensively by farmers in the production of cotton, the main raw materials in textile production, and pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture cause water pollution. Water is used in various processes including textile mill scrolling, bleaching, dyeing, washing, etc. Due to the use of various chemicals and dyes, a lot of wastewater accumulates in the outlets of the factory. If this water is released into the aquatic environment without treatment or partial treatment, the water becomes contaminated. About 120 liters of clean water is required to produce 1 kg of textiles products. According to BUET's 'Evaluation of Present and Future Waste Water Impacts of Textile Dyeing Industries in Bangladesh,' the country's annual wastewater production from the garment industry is 21 crore 70 lakh cubic meters in 2016 and 23 crore 60 lakh cubic meters in 2016. According to their projection, in 2021, its amount will be about 34 crore cubic meters. A large part of this huge amount of waste is being polluted in all types of reservoirs including rivers, destroying the aquatic environment, endangering aquatic life. Floating solids present in wastewater are stored in the bottom of the reservoir, which is often responsible for Eutrophication. As a result, fish and aquatic animals are harmed. National and floating wastes of wastewater pollute the water of Canals, Beels, and Rivers, etc. As a result, the photosynthesis process of phytoplankton in the fish meal is hampered. High pH values in waste impede the growth and development of aquatic plants. Mineral salts dissolved in waste increase the salinity of the water. Dissolved oxygen (DO) in water is declining overall. Chromium, aniline and sulfide substances act as a threat to fish and other microorganisms. Water contaminated by waste causes deadly cancers, neurological diseases, heart diseases, stomach ailments, etc. in the human body.
Environmental Pollution from Cement Industry
Cement is one of the most important building materials. In this modern age, the number of skyscrapers is increasing as well as the demand for cement. Cement was imported from abroad even before the 90s. But to meet the demand, the country started setting up its cement factory in 1995. At present, there are 14 cement factories in the country. Environmental pollution from the cement industry is mainly air-centric but its role in water pollution is not less. Most of the cement factories in Bangladesh are located on the banks of the river. Cement factories have been set up on the banks of the river to facilitate the transportation of raw materials. Contamination of vessels related to transportation of goods; liquids emitted from factories are all causes of river pollution. The main ingredient in making cement is clinker. Depending on the factory and production, there is a demand of about 1 to 6 thousand tons of clinker per day. The whole process of unloading from the transport is done openly. As a result, a lot of dust is spread in the surrounding air. In making cement, calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is heated to form calcium oxide (CaO). This emits large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Combustion of gases, petroleum, coke, etc. used as fuel also emits large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), oxides of sulfur (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NO2). Clinker obtained from nature is not pure, it contains zinc (Zn), lead (Pb) and other unfavourrable metals. When the clinker is crushed and powdered, these metals dissolve in the air. Other raw materials include some volatile heavy metals such as thallium (Tl), cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg) which are gaseous in the air at the height of the reactor. According to a study conducted by Khulna University of Engineering & Technology (KUET) in 2016, about 51 grams of dust is produced per metric tonnes of cement production and about 50.2 metric tons of dust is released into the air in one year from a cement factory. In addition to fine particulate matter (PM), it contains sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, calcium oxide, silicon oxide, aluminum oxide, magnesium oxide. There should be a regular sprinkling of water to reduce air pollution.
Environmental Pollution from Brick Kilns
We are focusing on architecture to keep the civilisation alive and one of the construction materials of architecture is brick. The most widely used in our country is ready-made baked bricks from clay. There are a lot of brick kilns in the country for making bricks. There are about 4500 brick kilns in the area around Dhaka alone. As a result, polluted air is entering Dhaka city from wherever it is flowing. As soon as you go around Dhaka, you can see rows and rows of black smoke coming out of the chimney of the brickyard and spreading in the air of Dhaka. It is as if the pollution fair is going on in the air. According to the Department of Environment, 54% of air pollution in Dhaka is caused by brick kilns. Although concrete, aluminum sheets, plastics, glass fiber, steel and metallic materials are widely used in the construction of multi-storied buildings in the modern world; bricks are mostly used in the least developed countries like Bangladesh. And the soil is an important element of nature used to make these brick sand, in most cases; it is taken from agricultural land. At the urging of the farmers, the brick kiln owners cut off the fertile soil of the upper part of the land, which is very important for cultivation, for a small amount of money and use it for making bricks. In Bangladesh, brick kiln owners usually choose October to March as the best time to make bricks. Land erosion is a serious problem for any country. All countries try to prevent land erosion. There are about 12,000 brick-making companies in Bangladesh. And most of the brick kilns are open during the dry season when the amount of pollution is already high. It usually takes at least half a million tons of soil to make 10 million bricks, all of which come from fertile soil or topsoil. Soil topsoil contains all the elements needed for a crop and it takes hundreds of years for soil topsoil to form. Although burning wood in brick kilns is illegal. These brick kilns are used to make bricks, charcoal, wood powder, furnace oil, and even discarded tires are used to burn bricks in the brick kilns. Again, to burn 1 lakh bricks, about 20 tonnes of coal is required. If it is wood, its amount will increase further. In our country, planting trees has become a kind of social movement, but we are not getting the benefits. Because wood is being burnt by deforestation on a large scale. Excessive burning of wood and coal releases dust, particulate carbon, carbon monoxide, sulfur and nitrogen oxides which are polluting the atmosphere. The level of pollution is so high that even the surrounding plants die. The clearness of the air decreases due to dust. Due to a lack of fertile soil, crop yield decreases. If the law is amended to make it mandatory to use air purifiers to reduce pollution in brick kilns, the amount of pollution will be significantly reduced. In addition, the brick kilns of the old and inefficient Bull's Trench system need to be phased out and converted to the Hoffman method. To this end, government-funded training or affordable manuals on the construction and operation of the Hoffman system may be provided. The old and inefficient Bull's Trench system should also be banned when installing new brickfields. If bricks are to be exported, they should be produced in an environmentally friendly manner and at a reasonable price for an environmentally friendly method of production. In addition, it is necessary to take initiative to produce and introduce sand bricks instead of conventional fire-baked bricks. As a result of the environmentally friendly production system, it will be possible to fully cover the development cost of the brickfields by arranging subsidies from the international carbon trade.
At this time of development, there is no alternative to industrial production to sustain civilisation. So, it means will we destroy our environment forever in the name of development? No, besides development, we also need to look at environmental pollution. The use of advanced technology should be brought into the industry to replace the traditional method which can be a good solution. We need to use ETP or CETP for liquid wastewater treatment, adopt a zero discharge plan for waste prevention and recycling. Waste to energy plans needs to be adopted instead of landfills for solid industrial waste. ATP should be used to alleviate industrial air pollution and use high-quality reactors and fuels for combustion. Advanced technology kilns should be set up along with brick kilns, bricks should be made in compressed block method instead of burnt bricks. Overall, the Ministry of Industries has to manage properly, enforce the law and the Ministry of Industries has to coordinate with Environmental workers, and researchers including the Department of Environment, River Commission, Bangladesh Small, and Cottage Industries Corporation, BIWTA.

(Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder is Dean, Faculty of Science and Chairman, Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh).

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