Impacts of River Pollution


The capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, is situated on the bank of the river Buriganga. The water of Buriganga is polluted by industrial waste and capital sewage which cause her to become biologically dead. Tannery waste is mainly contaminating the river. Around 20,000 cubic meters of untreated highly toxic liquid waste flow in to the Buriganga through canals on a recent repor of the Department of Environment (DoP). These tanneries are mainly situated in Hazaribag few kilometres away from capital. Due to over pollution of surface water, ground water of Hazaribug is getting polluted. The contamination of Buriganga is threatenning the existe nce of three other rivers Turag, Balu & Shitalakhya. Several environmental processes are involved with the Buriganga. Its pollution is harming the surrounding agricultural and aquatic environment. The deteriorating condition of the river is also having an impact on the people living in its banks and depending on it for a living. The pressures on the river and their state and impacts are tabulated in the table below:

Pressures Pollution :  Industrial effluent  Domestic sewage  Fecal pollution  Oil spill  Encroachment  Sand extraction

State Impacts  Decreasing inland  Pressure on water water quality in source dry season  Fish mortality and  Declining fish decline on quality population of fish  Decreasing  Degradation of fish vegetation habitat  Increasing river  Yield reduction unpredictability  Increase in risk from water borne diseases  Marine aquatic life affected  River bank erosion, changes of river courses, navigable channels.

As a result there is a shortage of water source. The river water is no longer healthy to drink. non bio-degradable inorganic waste and toxic waste. The seasonal variation of water quality in the Buriganga is linked with seasonal variation of water flow and the operation of the tanneries. The toxic quotient of the river exceeds tolerable limits in the months of January and February. Analysis of surface water shows that the level of dissolved oxygen in the river water is too low or sometimes non -existent as the toxic effluents are discharged into the river.Impacts stretching boundaries: Industrial discharge and sewage disposal into Buriganga river are the two most polluting sources of water pollution. The situation is set to continue until a new flow of water rushes in from the upstream. People living along the river are the worst victims of the pollution. Disposal of such untreated industrial waste is gradually destroyin g aquatic environments of the river and this in turn is affecting people s health. . Pollutants from these industries are categorized into three parts: Bio-degradable organic waste. Millions of cubic metres of toxic waste from the Hazaribagh tanneries and thousands of other industries. In summer the situation is worse. The river becomes pitch black and releases noxious smell. now remain almost stagnant within the river water. Water use in question Extremely hazardous air pollution is generated by the highly toxic water as it releases a 'gas' that starts irritating the nostrils and throat as soon as humans breathe it. The fetid smell of the river water has made it unsuitable for drinking and other purposes. The pollution is mostly due to wastewater discharge from the tannery industries in the Hazaribagh area and Tejgaon chemical and paper mills into the river. Its foul odours can be smelled from as far away as half a kilometre. topped with a huge volume of untreated sewage from the city.

The scenario is even bleaker in the villages along the river. Wasspur. The washermen too have their share of problems because of river pollution. Even so. Kholamora. many of them have even begun to suffer from various diseases. They are now forced to travel miles to get water for their daily chores.The seasonality of flow in the watercourses from the river constitutes a significant constraint to its ability to dilute and disperse effluent discharged into it. Modhyerchar. The river water hardly satisfies the quality parameter set by the Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) thus showing the unsuitability of the water to be used for irrigation. However. in the upstream of the Buriganga. Jhaochar. working on the passenger and cargo vessels in Sadarghat. The tube wells for drinking water is also inappropriate to use due to groundwater pollution. the pollutants sometimes stay for a long time in the same place in the river in concentrated form unless water from upstream does not flush them away thus harming the overall water quality. Those living near the Buriganga struggle to wash clothes in the river during the dry season as the water become too filthy. Nobody knows how much harm . So as already mentioned. Dependent on the river for generations. washing and sometimes drinking. the slum inhabitants in the tanneries have to use the water from Buriganga for bathing. Thousands of water transport workers. bathing. some washermen have no choice but to wash the clothes in such dirty wate r. Hundreds of thousands of families living in Zinzira. Basila and Looterchar face a severe water crisis for at least six months a year. Unable to take a bath or wash clothes for days. Kamrangirchar. are forced to bring water from the river Meghna and Dhaleswari for washing. and washing of household items. this population has been cut off from using the river water. Concentration of dissolved heavy metals such as chromium and iron in the groundwater is forcing the inhabitants to rely on expensive alternative water supply.

Also consumption of the contaminated fish is causing dangerous diseases such as food poisoning and other gastro intestinal diseases. who live in the banks of Buriganga. Because oil floats on top of water. especially among the poorer section. dengue hemoragic fever and filariasis. The pollutants are stagnant in the river since the waterflow is low in the river except during monsoons. economically. faecal pollution has become prominent. . less light penetrates into the water. People living in slums around the city use these contaminated water for all recreational purpose and this results in spreading of water -borne and skin diseases. There has been degradation of the fish habitat and thus a decline in the quality of fish. Impact on food chain Pollution in the river has destroyed the river water's ecosystem and also rendered hundreds of acres of totally barren agricultural land. Fishes are found rotting in the river adding to the unbearable stench.and potential carcinogen diseases will occur to them. This endangers the flora and fauna of Buriganga and also affects the food chain in the ecosystem. This reduced yield of fish has affected many fishermen. limiting the photosynthesis of marine plants and phytoplankton. Diseases like cholera and diarrhoea are transmitted by faecal contamination of water. To exacerbate the pollution. Fishes exposed to oil spill and toxins in the water causes the fish and other marine animals such as river dolphins to get infected. Oil spills and toxins from pollutants have reduced the fish population in the river. diarrhoea. shigella food poisoning. They are already the victims of several water bred diseases like dysentery. cholera. the ferries spill oil into the river. This stagnancy accelerates the population of mosquitoes and thus expedite the spread of vector borne diseases like malaria. Owing to the direct disposal of city and industrial sewage into Buriganga.

Agricultural lands in the villages around the river have become barren. Ironically this results in the branching rivers and canals drying up which are subjected to further land grabbing. Encroachment. the river is often dredged. ports. . of course. on the river that has created obstacles on the flow the river. an act that is threatening the channels and courses of the city's rivers and the densely populated localities along their banks. The unscrupulous removal of sand from the river bed is causing serious threat of river bank erosion affecting the security of the inhabitants. As a result when the poisonous water has been u sed for irrigation it have destroyed vegetation and have made the land unproductive for further agricultural activity. The river water used for irrigation is responsible for this. bazaars. has always been a big threat to the river. The river bed s loss of course means a narrower bed which exacerbates flooding. The sand traders are extracting with powerful dr edgers in massive amounts. In an effort to reduce flooding. Lust ends nowhere Another human intervention in the Buriganga river system is the encroachment of the river by the influential. The water has dissolved heavy metal and other toxins that kills plantation. Politically backed influential land encroachers have created illegal structures including houses. One more recent problem is the officials allowing sand traders to extract much more sand than the permitted quantity from riverbeds in the capital. It is eating away the banks of Buriganga and is narrowing it further. navigable channels and environment. brickfields etc. This has harmed the inhabitants socially as well as economically. Unscientific sand extraction from the riverbeds not only makes the rivers extremely unpredictable but also destroys their courses.