Vol. 5 Num 990 Wed. March 14, 2007  
Front Page

Vast swath of Savar farmland washed with toxic waste

Abdul Mazid Mia, a farmer in Savar, fears this year he will not be able to harvest even one kilogram of rice as most of the paddy seedlings he transplanted have died due to toxic waste from a nearby dyeing factory.

Usually, his one-acre land at Tazpur yields more than 50 maunds [approximately 1,850 kilograms] every year.

"I had planted saplings twice this year, but on both occasions they died due to the impact of toxic wastes," said Mazid standing beside his barren field now reduced to a ground full of poisonous litters.

Many villagers from Tazpur at Yarpur union in Savar allege that effluent from the Generation Next Fashion Ltd, a composite unit launched only six months ago, has already become a cause of worry for them.

Most of them are very poor farmers. Cultivation and seasonal fishing are their main sources of income.

One of the high officials of the factory said they have been discharging the liquid waste only after treating those at their plant.

"We've set up the treatment plant at a cost of Tk 1.5 crore. Every day we spend Tk 20,000 for treating the effluent," said Major (retired) Shariful Islam, assistant vice-president of the composite garment plant.

He told The Daily Star that some local vested interests have been speaking against them as the factory authorities did not meet their interest.

Locals said the vast expanse of land there is arable only during this time of the year and they get only one crop from the fields.

"This land remains cultivable for only four to five months and for the rest of the year it lies under water, leaving us with no work but fishing," said Abdul Salam.

The villagers said the factory started dumping waste into the Dholair Beel, a wetland adjoining the paddy fields, right from the day it was launched. On the second day, they found a huge number of dead fish floating belly-up in the water.

"They all died due to the poisonous discharge from the factory," said Mokhles, another farmer.

Some of the farmers however managed to protect their crops by building dikes around the fields but those of many others have been destroyed fully or partially.

"We would not get any rice had we let the waste into the fields," said Sohrab Hossain, adding that he guards his fields at night-time so that the rubbish does not get into those.

The authorities have built a tank about a kilometre off the factory and set up a pipeline to deposit the waste there. But it does not take long for the waste to spill from the tank and flow towards the paddy fields and the Dholair Beel.

The factory officials claimed that the waste is treated before it is discharged. But the air was thick with the stench of chemicals.

The people living around the tank complain of stinks and menace of mosquitoes since the factory started discharging the toxic waste.

When this correspondent reached the Generation Next Fashion Ltd yesterday, the staff and officials were busy preparing themselves for a visit by a team from the World Bank.

"The World Bank wants to portray our factory as a model as we have a good effluent treatment plant," said Major (retired) Sharif.

He claimed that their treatment plant remains functioning round the clock. He also said that a group of technicians from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) has already tested their treated liquid waste and found nothing harmful.

Toxic water from nearby dyeing factories destroys Irri crop in a vast area in Ashulia near the capital. Farmer Abdul Mazid narrates how he failed to protect his crop despite repeated efforts. PHOTO: STAR