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VOL 18 NO 158 REGD NO DA 1589 | Dhaka, Friday July 2 2010

Part one
Managing industrial waste and protecting environment in Bangladesh

M S Siddiqui

Bangladesh has achieved steady economic growth of almost 6% annually over the last
decade while half the population still lives under poverty line. Bangladesh is one of the
Next 11 (N11), which have a great prospect of becoming middle income countries within
a few years. Bangladesh is likely to achieve the status by 2021.

However, Bangladesh faces a range of problems including the environmental one. The
country confronts with drought, flood and other natural hazards almost every year. The
quality of soil has deteriorated due to use of chemical fertilisers, unplanned land use,
undesirable encroachment into forest areas for agriculture and settlements and
indiscriminate disposal of hazardous industrial wastes.

Temperature is rising for the reason of global worming, which is caused by emission of
carbon and other gases increasing sea water level.

The surface water of the country is polluted through disposal of untreated industrial
effluents and municipal waste water, runoff pollution fromchemical fertilizers and
pesticides and oil and lubes spillage in the coastal area from the operation of sea and river
ports and ship wreckage.

Air pollution is one of the man-made environmental disasters that is creating


environmental hazard all over the world. There are two major sources of air pollution in
Bangladesh, namely vehicular emissions and industrial emissions, which are mainly
concentrated in the cities. There are also numerous brick-making kilns working in dry
season all over Bangladesh, which is another source of air pollution. Almost all of these
kilns use coal and wood as their source of energy, resulting in the emissions of sulfur-
dioxide and volatile organic compounds.

The depletion of biodiversity is the result of various kinds of human interventions by way
of destruction and degradation of land, forest and aquatic habitats. These activities
encompass the sectors ofagriculture , forestry, fisheries, urbanisation, industry, transport,
tourism, energy, chemicals and minerals etc. In the fisheries sector, unplanned shrimp
cultivation has negative impact on environment. It has caused serious environmental
damage that has harmed fish and other aquatic species.
A World Bank report has said Bangladesh could save between $200 million and $800
million per year if air pollution is reduced in just four major cities. There is another report
saying homeless street children, local streetwalkers, and rickshaw pullers in the city of
Dhaka pose a definite threat to the air pollution. Young children are mostly exposed to
cadmium (Cd) through inhalation of smoke and contaminated soil including dust from the
industrial emission and sewage sludge.

There is high concentration of lead (Pb) in the environment from variety of chemicals and
other products based on lead and gasoline, batteries used; and also products like paints,
ceramics, pigments etc are not under scrutiny to control lead content creating high
concentration of lead in the environment.

The Textile industry is the fastest growing sector in Bangladesh. It accounts for almost
75% of annual foreign currency earnings. But this sector is also a source of major
environmental pollution.

The wastewaters and other effluence released by the textile sector, which are
characterized by high alkalinity, high biological oxygen demand (BOD) and high-
suspended solids, are often disposed off in nearby rivers, canals, ponds or lakes without
proper treatment. Wastewater released by those industries contains toxic refractory dye at
a high concentration. Most of the dyes used inthe textile industry are non-biodegradable.

The water of the Buriganga is now so polluted that all fish have died, and increasing filth
and human waste have turned it like a black gel. Even rowing across the river is now
difficult for it smells so badly.

The Bangladesh Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD) in its report
says a large number of the 8000-12000 workers at the tanneries suffers from
gastrointestinal, dermatological and other diseases that could be related to the pollution
and that 90% of them die before they reach the age of 50.

The affected area is Hazaribagh, where 240 tanneries are located on 25 hectares of land.
Most of the tanneries are 30-35 years old and use mineral tanning processes that
discharge about 6000 cubic metres of liquid effluent and 10 tonnes of solid waste every
day, according to figures from the Bangladesh government and the Food andAgriculture
Organization.

The liquid and solid industrial wastes greatly pollute the topsoil, which is highly
productive and suitable for plant growth. Industrial wastes bring about great changes in
the physical characteristics andchemical composition of the soil. Thus, industrial wastes
lead to deterioration of soil quality.

Bangladesh has wide use of DDT as a pesticide although there is Pesticide Ordinance of
1971 and Pesticides Rules, 1985, making mandatory condition of registering DDT with
relevant authority. There is no record of quantity of DDT used with the Plant Protection
Wing (PPW) or Pesticide Association of Bangladesh (PAB). The use of DDT by City
corporation is rampant.

There is no regulation of handling of the equipment with printed circuit board (PCBs).
Since there is no disposal mechanism for PCB waste including the obsolete equipment,
waste liquid with PCBs and solid PCB waste (metal, non-metal or soil contaminated with
PCBs) generated by the leaks, damaged equipment or remediation and cleaning of
facilities and sites contaminated with PCBs, many of these find their way in to the
landfills.

Ship breaking sites are another threat since they release Persistent Organic Pollutants
(POPs) into the environment. The concerns have grown since this is a growing industry
in Bangladesh.

There are around 20-25 ship breaking yards where over 50 old ships are dismantled
annually. It is a known fact that old ships contain PCBs in their electrical systems, paints
and coatings, cables, lubricants, engine oils etc. In 1998, about 90% of the world's old
ships were disposed in these areas. Based on the most conservative estimates the total
quantity of PCBs from the ship breaking sector is around 22.5 tonnes. A significant
quantity of PCBs have been disposed in the ground as well as spilled into the
environment.

Bangladesh has production facilities for iron and steel, copper, aluminum, copper, lead,
zinc, brass, and magnesium; foundries and thermal non-ferrous metal production as
nickel. Of these Iron and steel and Aluminum production are the biggest contributors of
dioxins and furans in the environment. The release is largely to air and through residues.
The entire category however contributes approximately 31.98 g TEQ/a as per the
estimates.

Power generation and heating including power plants run on fossil fuel; domestic cooking
and heating are done using biomass and fossil fuels and others. This category is estimated
to release 79.49gTEQ/a of dioxins and furans to the environment. Fossil fuels are the
main sources of power generation and heating in Bangladesh. This category includes
processes and practices that involve combustion of fossil fuel, biogas and others.

Production of mineral products includes cement, brick, glass, ceramic and others. The
total release from this category is estimated at 9.091gTEQ/a. This largely includes
processes carried out at high temperature. Bangladesh produces 15,000,000 tonnes of
cement; 145,763 tonnes of lime, 25,376,000 tonnes of brick, 16,720 tonnes of glass and
94,680 tonnes of ceramics.

Brick kilns and cement factories are the largest contributors of dioxins. There are over
100 cement factories across the country most of them concentrated in and around
Chhatak, Ayeenpur, Dhaka, Chittagong and Mongla. Similarly, there are over 6,000 brick
kilns located near towns or major construction sites.

Transport sector in Bangladesh is one of the predominant sectors in terms of energy


consumption. The transportation is largely based on petroleum oils and natural gas.
Leaded fuel was banned in 1999. This category together is estimated to release 1.514
gTEQ/a of dioxins, a large part contributed by 4-stroke engines, 2-stroke engines, diesel
engines and heavy oil fired engines.

The writer is a part-time teacher of Leading University. He can be reached at e-mail:


shah@banglachemical.com