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Unplanned urbanization and industrialization leading to water contamination of rivers around Dhaka

Almost all large factories run effluent treatment plants as it is mandatory. They invested Tk 20 crore to Tk 35 crore to install it, though there are huge scope to invest more in lessening water pollution of the rivers around Dhaka

In a recent report of the international news channel Al-Jazeera, the harsh picture of the environmental impact of the Bangladesh textile industry has been brought out to light. In a report published on 1 July, 2019 by Al-Jazeera, the polluted scenario of the rivers around Dhaka has been portrayed.

Biological ETP plant S.F. Washing Ltd
Figure: Sustainable biological ETP of 100m3 per hour capacity at S.F. Washing Ltd.

The report stated that the environmental department of Bangladesh government has classified three rivers around the capital as ‘Biologically Dead’ because of pollution. The environmental impact of apparel production shows the true cost of industrialization.

The willingness to cut these negative impacts are not being increased in proportion to the amount of production. As a result, people living under the downstream and nearby areas of the textile factories, aren’t being able to use pure water for drinking and daily usages.

When industrial wastes come out through large drains to the river, the nearby residents cannot stand there because of the awful smell. The land has also become so infertile that they aren’t able to cultivate crops in this area.

An industrial engineer said, “Water treatment is an expensive process. We are trying our best to keep a sustainable environment in our factory. But the buyers aren’t willing to pay the proper price for this investment.”

According to the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association data, the country has around 450 spinning mills, 1,200 weaving mills, and around 5,000 export-oriented dyeing factories. There are several thousand small dyeing factories catering the local markets as well.

A World Bank Study has been found that four big rivers near Dhaka receive nearly 1.5M Cubic meters of wastewater every day from 7000 industrial units from surrounding areas.

The President of BTMA said that all the factories are maintaining compliance and sustainable environment as per government and international rules.

“The composite units of our member base are mainly export-oriented and complying with international standards in many cases stricter than local standards. Most of the wet processing units are not equipped with biological ETPs which are not possible to shut down as and when required. Because these factories treat water in sequence batch system.”

Rubana Huq, President, BGMEA

In an official reaction to this report, the President of BGMEA, Rubana Huq has said, “There are some stand-alone textile factories and washing plants which are not under strong surveillance system of the brands. There are also some local producers as well who aren’t living by the rules.”

“Not only textile factories, but there are also some poultry feed mills and other mills as well who are responsible for the water pollution,” she informed.

Rubana Huq also stated that the consecutive unplanned urbanization along with industrialization is one of the main reasons for this water contamination.

“The composite units of our member base are mainly export-oriented and complying with international standards in many cases stricter than local standards. Most of the wet processing units are not equipped with biological ETPs which are not possible to shut down as and when required. Because these factories treat water in sequence batch system.”

“If you only concentrate on river quality which is a non-excludable sample scientifically, can not point a finger towards the textile industry alone. Our national standard as per ECR’97 is concentration based but not load based. Therefore, it accommodates some built-in loopholes also.”

sustainable BD textile factories

Factory owners are using modern technologies

Already textile factory owners have started to use modern technologies to reduce the use of water to make their plants less expensive to run. They are very much concern on this issue and they are using several eco-friendly technologies to protect the earth from the textile waste.

Factory Tales, a Textile Today initiative for branding Bangladesh textile and apparel industry, already covered many stories on several factory’s best practices regarding sustainability, innovative technologies for textile dyeing and effluent treatment, etc.

We have found numerous factories– Robintex Group, APS Group, Green Textile Ltd, Shasha Denims Limited, Pioneer Denim Limited, Masco Group, Denimach Washing Limited, Viyellatex Group, ACS Textiles, Babylon Group, Envoy Textiles Limited (ETL), Mithela Textile Industries Limited and many more—have already reduced water usage in the production process.

Monsoor Ahmed, Secretary of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), said that almost all large factories run effluent treatment plants as it is mandatory. They invested Tk 20 crore to Tk 35 crore to install it.

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