Buriganga River Restoration project
Golam Mostafa Jibon: The water of Jamuna is yet to reach at Buriganga river even after spending crores of Taka in the name of Buriganga River Restoration project. As a result, question is spiraling that when the Buriganga will get new life with Jamuna water through the implementation of the project.
The project was taken by the government for bringing water from Jamuna river to Buriganga, Balu and Shitalakshya river by excavating Dhaleshwari, Pungli, Bongshai and Turag river with a view to prevent water pollution of those river.
According to the sources, the Water Development Board (WDB) conducted a survey in 2004 to decontaminate the water of Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitalakshya rivers around Dhaka. After six years, a project was taken at a cost of Tk 944.9 crore in this regard. The aim of the project was to prevent contamination of water of Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitalakshya rivers by bringing water from Jamuna river through excavation of New Dhaleshwari-Pungli-Bangshai-Turag rivers. But even in 18 years, the water of Jamuna could not be brought to Buriganga. The 3.5 year project has been going on for 12 years.
At present, the cost of the project has stood at Tk 1125.59 crore. But, question has intensified that the water of rivers locating surrounding Dhaka is being de-polluted even after spending crores of Taka. The amount of pollution is increasing day by day. Every day, about 50,000 metric tons of toxic liquids and solid wastes are polluting the river water around Dhaka. It has been mentioned in an action plan of the NAVY that, about 80 percent of the pollution is from industrial waste. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, the Buriganga and other rivers around Dhaka are posing serious threat to public health, ecosystems and socio-economic conditions due to continuous pollution and environmental disasters. Therefore, the capacity of Buriganga, Turag and Shitalakshya rivers has decreased due to volume change and continuous siltation. As a result, the river does not flow during the dry season and the navigability decreases. As the flow of the river decreases in the dry season, the flow of the river originating from the river Jamuna decreases. Filling the river with silt at the source is a big problem. Therefore, the main goal is to increase the flow of water at the source of the river through sustainable management.
A survey conducted by the Institute of Water Modeling (IWM) in 2004, the Water Development Board (WDB) formulated a project titled ‘Buriganga River Restoration’. The project was approved at the ECNEC meeting on June 4 in 2010. But, the three and a half year project has been going on for 12 years.
The Ministry of Water Resources submitted the project ‘Buriganga River Restoration’ to the Planning Commission for approval in 2006 to supply water from the Jamuna to the Buriganga river to decontaminate the river water around Dhaka. At that time the cost of the project was estimated at around Tk 610.59 crore.
But the DPPT was not approved as the donor agency could not be found at that time, Water Development Board sources said.
Later, on the direction of the Prime Minister, the government-funded DPPT with an estimated expenditure of Tk 944.09 crore was approved at the ECNEC meeting on June 4 in 2010. Later, the cost of the project was fixed at Tk 1,125.59 crore through DPP amendment. The project was scheduled to start in June 2010 and end in December 2013. As it was not possible, the time was extended till December 2014 in the first phase. Later, it was extended for another year till December 2015. After failing to do so, the time was later extended to four and a half years till June 2020. As that too is not possible, time was taken till June in 2021. Due to the failure, the last time has been extended to June in 2022. Despite a two-point increase and a five-point increase in time, 82 percent of the project has been completed so far, Water Resources Ministry sources said.
Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources (Development) Mizanur Rahman said, “The project is in the final stages. There is some work left in the mouth of Buriganga. The project will be completed in June this year. However, due to the large amount of silt coming from upstream through the river Jamuna, the source of Dhaleshwari river is filling up. The first 20 km of the project, New Dhaleshwari and Pungli are filled up with silt. Therefore sediment should be removed by regular dredging at the source.”
He also said that, if the construction work of sediment basin is completed, it will be possible to bring a lot of silt-free water to Buriganga.
Sources said, about 99 percent of the industries along the river do not have liquid waste treatment plants. The rivers Buriganga, Turag, Shitalakshya and Balu are constantly polluted by 175 drains of waste (source mouths) around Dhaka. Of these drains, Dhaka WASA has 47. With which the capital household waste is being dumped in the river. Through these sources, about 80 percent of industrial waste is falling into the river. Besides, rivers around Dhaka are being polluted by 30 percent solid waste and 10 percent boat waste including brick kilns, polythene, dockyard and burnt mobiles. About 50,000 metric tons of toxic liquid and solid waste is being dumped in the rivers around Dhaka every day.
According to the Ministry of Shipping, there are about two and a half lakh factories in the capital and its surrounding areas. About 99 percent of these industries do not have water treatment plants for liquid waste. The Buriganga water test report states the existence of six types of unrefined chemicals, including chromium, nitrate, lead and high levels of mercury. Buriganga contains about 47 milligrams of chromium per liter of water. However, it has been mentioned that people can die, if they drink chromium level of 50 mg in water. Evidence of daily dumping of industrial waste, hazardous chemicals, tannery waste, sewerage and household waste, dockyard iron rust, cement-sand mixed water, burnt oil-Mobil into rivers around Dhaka has been found.
Gulzar Ali, joint director of BIWTA’s Dhaka river port said that, “The main cause of water pollution in the Buriganga river is industrial waste. Most of the factories on the banks of the river do not have water treatment plants for liquid waste. So the liquid waste from different factories is falling directly into the river. The Department of Environment is responsible for overseeing the matter.”
Mohammad Masood Hasan Patwari, Director (Monitoring and Enforcement) of the Department of Environment said, “Regular mobile court’s raids were conducted in all factories along the Buriganga and other rivers in Dhaka. Various factories have been fined crores of Taka for disconnecting electricity and gas lines for river water pollution. However, when the operation goes on, the factories keep the ETB running. At the end of the operation, they closed it again and dumped the liquid waste directly into the river.”
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