Aiding establishment of effluent treatment plants

Publish: 9:32 PM, October 17, 2020 | Update: 9:32:PM, October 17, 2020

Industries in Bangladesh do seriously need to comply with the regulation that they must set up effluent treatment plants (ETPs) for treating waste matters created during production process for the relatively safer treated waste products to be discharged afterwards into water bodies, drains or the soil. This is an absolute requirement for the worsening environmental conditions in the country. Unregulated discharge of the industrial effluents is contaminating waters of rivers and aquatic life in them and similarly spoiling underground water aquifers from seepage through soil.

Specially , the rivers that flow through and past Dhaka city are in extremely burdened conditions from the carefree discharge of all forms of untreated effluents in them. Recent newspaper photos highlighted prominently the very degraded water quality of the affected parts of these rivers. The urgency of restoring the water quality of these rivers is dictated by the fact that surface waters from the rivers are being widely used for supplying in the city for household uses. But frequent reports appeared in the press about the poor quality of the water supplied by DWASA (Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority). DWASA supplied water is found to be smelly and dark in appearance in many parts of the city and unfit for drinking. DWASA authorities on their part pointed to the unchecked pollution of the rivers from untreated discharge of effluents-both human excrements and industrial wastes — that make the tasks of purification extremely dificult these days.

Thus, the compulsory establishment of the ETPs by the industries cannot wait. However, there are also other issues to be taken into consideration. A main one of them would be avoidance of too drastic steps on the plea of helping the environment. ETPs must be acquired by all offending industries and government’s pressure must be unrelenting to that end. But the merit of any step would be questionable if it leads to a crackdown or closure of industries from failing to comply with the regulation for ETP establishment. A report sometime ago indicated that government was breathing down the necks of some offenders pushing them into great distresses. Whether such ‘severe’ pressures are reasonable need to be assessed .

A more flexible policy response of the government to the matter would be both economically pragmatic and sensible than any drastic moves. Industries suddenly forced into closing down for non compliance will be a very counterproductive development from the turning off of their contribution to the national economy and creation of large redundancies for workers. The benefits of stoppage of discharge of effluents may be offset by the higher negative costs of lost production and jobs. Therefore, government has to adopt a policy that meets both the medium and longer term needs of getting the ETPs established without causing industries to shut down in the process. The essential planks of such a policy should be one of putting pressures on varying degrees for the sake of fairplay.

For example, the textile industries are struggling hard to meet their compliance targets and these ought not to be treated so harshly for meeting full compliance immediately or face closure. These industries may be given some more time and persuaded and handled with patience while the ones that paid no heed to compliance whatsoever such as the tannery operators, they should be arm twisted to show fastest evidence of working towards compliance.

ETPs are costly to set up and expenditures on them range between Taka 10 million and 100 million. Most of the industries could go on polluting so freely as relevant authorities hardly did anything about it. Asking these industries to build ETPs all on a sudden can impose crushing financial burden on them when government itself has been so careless in making them uncaring polluters.

Therefore, government has a responsibility to them and should consider moblising a special fund from which industries can borrow at nominal rates for the establishment of ETPs. The banks should be encouraged to draw up such borrowing schemes to help the industries to spend on ETPs.