BSCIC Industrial Estates: 48 factories run without ETP
Most look forward to the monsoon season every year, but that is not the case for residents of the Pagar Alerteg area adjacent to the Tongi Industrial Zone of the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC).
A sense of repulsion fills them when it starts pouring as the rain brings pitch-black filthy water from the nearby factories, authorities of which refuse to set up effluent treatment plants and dump untreated waste into open drains that flow into the Turag river at Mirashpara area point.
"The stench is unbearable," said Rubiya Begum, who has to navigate the knee-deep putrid water that is heavy with liquid chemical substances to get in and out of her house during monsoon.
The untreated waste also seeps into the ground floor of her building.
So infamous has this yearly event become that people do not want to rent flats in the area, said the 50-year-old who has been living in the neighbourhood for the past 26 years.
And yet, neither the BSCIC authorities nor the Department of Environment (DoE) are taking any steps to solve the unmitigated health and environmental hazards posed by the 48 units that are operating without the mandatory ETPs in the industrial estates in four divisions.
Dhaka division has the highest number of offending units (22), followed by Chattogram at 16, according to a report prepared by the Industrial Estate Division of BSCIC.
The Industrial Estate Division classified the 48 industrial units as red and orange.
Rajshahi division has six such factories while the remaining four are in Khulna, said the report.
For factories that generate chemical waste, it is mandatory to set up ETPs, according to BSCIC guidelines.
But the BSCIC do not have the authority to penalise factories without ETPs, and so the owners have been shelving their plans to set up the facility, according to sources.
One such offending factory is Compliance Fashion and Design, which produces 100 litres of waste that is dumped in the drain every day.
"We are not financially solvent. We need some time to build the ETP," Nazmus Shakib, one of the owners of Compliance Fashion and Design, told The Daily Star.
But Union Industries, a carton factory founded in the BSCIC Industrial estate at Konabari of Gazipur four years ago, has started the process of setting up the waste treatment facility following pressure from the BSCIC and the DoE.
"Our factory is located on 28 decimals of land. At least 14 decimals of land are required to set up an ETP. Where do we get the land?" said Farhan Hossain, manager of the company.
Two years ago, the BSCIC had a plan to set up a central ETP in the industrial city, but the plan has not been implemented yet.
"This could have been a great help for many of the industries," Hossain said, adding that the factory's ETP will take another three to four months to come through.
Contacted, Md Abdus Salam, deputy director of DoE of Gazipur, said he was not aware of the BSCIC report.
"The Tongi Industrial City in BSCIC requires ETPs. There is no scope to run such a factory without an ETP," he added.
Masud Iqbal Md Shameem, director (environmental clearance) of DoE, also said he was not aware of the BSCIC report.
"It is not in our knowledge that so many BSCIC factories are operating without ETPs. We will talk to BSCIC shortly and take appropriate action," he added.
Nasrin Rahim, deputy general manager of the industrial estate division at the BSCIC, said they are monitoring the matter regularly and taking action against those who violate the rules.
"The BSCIC has not been successful anywhere because it did not take the required measures," said Sharif Jamil, general secretary of the Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon.
On the other hand, the DoE has long been saying that it does not have the sufficient budget and manpower to monitor the industries properly.
"Both institutions are not exercising their authority to ensure that factories do not flout the rules. The law has to be changed. The punishment has to be increased," Jamil added.
BSCIC Chairman Md Mostaque Hassan said they sent letters to the DoE many times asking them to identify the factories with no ETPs.
"We cannot mete out punishment to the violators. But the DoE has the legal right to punish them. We are giving the owners some time for setting up the ETP and if they cannot comply with it, the DoE can fine or shut them down," he added.
Regardless, for the sake of the long-suffering neighbours like Rubiya and the environment, one has to keep one's fingers crossed that the DoE steps up sooner than later.
"We, the residents of the area, sent a letter to the BSCIC and the Department of Environment for a permanent solution to our misery. We even talked to the local commissioner, who advised us to go to the mayor. We got assurances, but the problem persists. Had we not owned the property, we would have been long gone," said a frustrated Rubiya.