Halda River, meandering through South-East Bangladesh, is currently in a dire state. Because of unabated dumping of industrial waste into Khondokia Khal, the master channel flowing nearby the industrial units of the locality and which discharges water into the Halda, has turned pitch-black making the river severely polluted and thereby threatening its aquatic life.
The dismal straits of the waterway have been quickened even after the two year old order of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) which authorized the Department of Environment (DoE) to shut down factories releasing untreated waste into the streams. This sheer failure or negligence of DoE in carrying out the order, or taking adequate preventive measure, is deteriorating the river's health with each day passes by.
Reportedly, the DoE made a list of factories at the industrial belt in Bayazid after the PMO asked it to conduct an investigation. The investigation report, however, said all the factories operating there had installed effluent treatment plants (ETPs) but the report was termed 'insufficient' by the PMO which again asked, in a letter in April 2017, the directorate general of DoE to take necessary actions to shut down the factories.
More than a year has passed and those factories are operating without any official intervention. Even though the acting director of Chittagong DoE claimed that they see every ETP is running whenever they are in a drive there, the reality is that they have not perhaps checked whether those ETPs were running as efficiently as were supposed to.
He came up with views that shutting down of the factories might negatively impact the local economy but he must, then, also come up with measures that might save the river from being harmed any further.
On the other hand, dissolved oxygen in the water of Halda, in December last year, was at a critical level. Reportedly, there was less than one milligram per liter of dissolved oxygen at the mouth of Khondokia Khal that flows from Bayazid industrial belt whereas the minimum level for optimal aquatic life is 5 mg/liter, according to international standards.
The scenario in most other points of the rivers was also below the mark meaning the river is not in good health. We can undoubtedly say that these points of the river currently have no large aquatic life left, for, according to experts, oxygen levels that remain below 1-2 mg/liter for a few hours can result in death of large fishes.
Also, we must not forget the surroundings of the river. Hence, measures are urgently needed to preserve the river. We cannot let our rivers disappear gradually.
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