CURRENT ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN BANGLADESH by

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CURRENT ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN BANGLADESH
by
MR. M. ZAMIUL ALAM
Deputy General Manager BSCIC, Bangladesh
Current Environmental Problems in the Country
Bangladesh is basically a riverien country in the tropical zone having highly
fertile delta soil. Its economy is mainly based on agriculture. It is one of the
most thickly populated countries of the world having 768 persons per sq. km.
Natural calamities like floods, locally originated tornadoes and cyclones are
regular features affecting the population and habitats in the rural areas.
High growth of population increase the habitats are diminishing the plants
and trees in the rural areas particularly to meet their requirement of fuel
substitute for cooking, in brick fields and other small industries. Increasing
need of wood for the population for transports, roads, bridges and homesteads
add to the degradation of environment. Bangladesh had agro-based industries
till the 1970 mostly like jute mills, sugar mills, cotton spinning mills, etc. Only
the sugar mills sporadically situated in the north and north-western part of
Bangladesh, had localized pollution problems with its wastes. The recent
growth of garment industries with its backward linkage sectors composite
textile mills (including dying printing and finishing units), and leather processing
units (under SMEs) use substantial quantities of highly toxic wastes, dyes
and chemicals. Some of these industries are situated close to the river having
access for the disposal of their toxic wastes whereas tanneries and some
other textile finishing units, situated in the land locked areas posing increasing
pollution problems to their surrounding Some government owned large
industries like urea fertilizer, pulp and paper etc are creating more pollution
problem by their gaseous emission and untreated effluent discharge to the
adjoining rivers threatening the aquatic animals and human lives as rural
people and animals drink this water for their livelihood.
Department of Environment (DOE) and Ministry of Industries (MOI) with the
assistance of Asian Development Bank (ADB) carried out a study on pollution
aspects in Bangladesh, which conclude the ranking of the major polluting
industry sector as follows:
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Paper and pulp

Textile (dying & printing)

Tanneries
The above industrial sectors are major pollutants due to the high discharge
level of organic materials and chemicals which are hazardous to environment.
It is evident apparently from the study that SME are not main polluters. But
by and large all industries including SME are also generating enormous
pollution and posing a serious threat to the country.
The Legislation, Policy, Monitoring and Enforcement Programme
Recognizing the importance of environmental protection and sound
management practice for long term sustainable development the Government
has created a single oversight Ministry–-the Ministry of Environment and
Forest (MOEF) and within it a new Department of environment along with the
Forest Department. The Department of Environment is headed by Director
General. The Environment Protection Act of 1995 (EPA) has been passed by
the Parliament and gazetted on February 16, 1995, to prevent the escalation
of pollution problem in the country and to make the general people and the
concerned agencies aware about its implications. Continuous orientation
through radio and television broadcasting is being carried out for the same
cause. The Department of Environment continuously monitors the
environmental level and imposes regulatory measures on the industrial units,
automotive vehicles and other concerned bodies. They also collect the river
water samples at random and continuously examine in their laboratories in
spite of their limited expertise and resources. They have very encouragable
enforcement programmes without disturbing the development of the industrial
sector. They have even listed the industries in three different categories, viz.
Green, Orange and Red, in accordance to the pollution related factors
particularly for the new or proposed industrial units both for local or overseas
investors.
Are SMEs Aware of the Environmental Protection Legislation and Policy
Yes, SMEs are aware of the environmental protection legislation and policy
as the industries will be identified and developed without affecting environment
and residential and agricultural land (Industrial Policy; chapter XIV Section
13). Chapter XIV Section 12 of the Industrial Policy also states that industrial
development is subject to all environmental pollution control other precautionary
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measures are included in the project proposals. These statements are reflected
adequately in the policy and procedures for approval of any industrial proposal.
Difficulties Encountered in Implementation and Enforcement
The environment programme implementation is still at its infancy. However,
some local social organizations, in association with some NGOs, are engaged
in afforestation programme in the far-flung and remote rural areas, wherein
they encounter occasionally with the Fundamentalist and Mollas as the NGOs
make local young women folk, irrespective of their education level, to work
for them.
The other major hurdle for implementation and enforcement of the Act faced
by the department from the large industrial units most of which are owned by
the Sector Corporation of Government.
Incentive for Environment Protection Measures
Government has accepted in principle the necessity of according incentives
for imposing environmental protection measures are under process with
respective government offices. Once implemented this will bring a definite
improvement and change in the anti-pollution measures. Among these
incentives measures, financing for industries causing no environmental hazard
is one of them. In this type of industry special allocation may be done for
advanced technology. The problem lies with that the entrepreneurs are to
face competition in this market with their product. So they are not very much
interested about advanced technology of environment friendly. All BSCIC
Industrial Estates have been designed and set up covering the pollution
protective measures in addition the aforesaid programme.
Pollution Prevention Demonstration Project for SMEs in the Country
Nothing mentionable except some programmes of the concerned department,
organized in association and support of the local trade bodies (chamber and
other social organization etc.) The demonstration projects need to be introduce
through local trade bodies like Dhaka Chamber in association with Bangladesh
Small and Cottage industries (BSCIC) for creating better awareness about
the problem and its prevention from and among the smes of both public and
private sectors.
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Assistance Provided for SMEs on Environment Protection Measures by
the Government
No mentionable assistance is giving to General People or SMEs except the
forest department provides the various kinds of attractive and costly tree
saplings at a nominal token price to the individuals and free of cost through
official functions during the season. They also demonstrate proper plantation
process regularly through television in its special bulletin in very simple
language to make the common people adopt easily. Free posters, printed
stickers and banners are also given to institutions organizing such programmes
for display and distribution among their localities. For small cottage industries
first awareness is to be developed among the entrepreneurs that in the initial
stage of installation implementation of environmentally sound technologies
cost may rise slightly but in the long run that would be beneficial to the
entrepreneurs in particular and the country in general.
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