Green activists, civil society representatives and ordinary citizens at a public hearing in Gazipur came down heavily on the authorities concerned for their inaction to bring down pollution in the heavily industrialised district.
Blaming the lack of waste management for the spiking in pollution, they demanded urgent government intervention for a quick recovery.
More than 300 people from different places in Gazipur participated in the first-ever public hearing on acute pollution in the industrial district on Monday.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association (Bela) in cooperation with Bangladesh Nodi Paribrajak Dal, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development and Sweden Sverige jointly organised the public hearing at Shaheed Ahsanullah Master Auditorium in Gazipur city.
The organisers sent letters to 40 local industries to join the hearing but none of them showed up.
At the hearing, Bela Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan, who chaired the event, asked a question: Is there any water body or surrounding greenery that remains "unpolluted" and "intact" as they were decades ago? To that, the participants conjointly responded: No.
Gazipur Deputy Commissioner (DC) Anisur Rahman attended the hearing as the chief guest. Participants informed the top administrative officer about their grievances that had long been unaddressed despite filing several complaints.
The entire Gazipur has become a landfill because of the sheer negligence of the authorities concerned, they said.
Admitting his liability as a public representative, DC Anisur Rahman said the district lacks planned development amid aggressive industrialisation that has condensed population as well as pollution.
He sought public participation in sustainable solutions to make Gazipur pollution-free for future generations.
Gazipur houses more than 2,000 industries, mostly of red and orange categories, and around two million workers. Due to improper management of waste–industrial, medical and household–the district's flora and fauna, broadly the environment, have become endangered by pollution.
Besides, unabated encroachment of water bodies and forestlands, particularly of the Bhawal Shal Forest that was once considered the lungs of Dhaka, are multiplying the toxicity of the pollution, participants complained.
Kazi Badrut Alam Monir, one of the organisers of BNPD–a river conservation group, said ponds are disappearing from Gazipur city as the authorities have turned a blind eye.
Law affairs secretary of the same organisation, Bipasha Afrin, requested the deputy commissioner to keep open his car's window while cruising through the Gazipur Chourasta-Shib Bari Mor road. Most of the time, the roadsides remained littered. "You will smell the bad odour as the common people do every day," she told the DC.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University's Deputy Registrar Abdullah Mridha raised concerns about industrial effluents that kill the aquatic ecosystem of the area.
Other participants said that unabated encroachments and pollution have killed most of the water bodies including Labandaha, Chilai, Mogor Khal, Sherar Khal and others.
Rover Polli College's English teacher Ameed Hossain, said, "Ironically, the forest officers spare the illegal occupants of forestland but bring the poor forest-dependent people to the book under false cases," he said.
Representatives of the forest department, environment department, and water development board were asked to respond to the queries of the participants.
Most of them said they were trying to minimise the pollution level. They also mentioned that their departments lack manpower.
Bela Chief Executive Rizwana urged government officials to carry out anti-pollution drives in collaboration with the green activists if they feel they lack manpower. Besides, she requested the DC to consider the outcome of the public hearing and help stakeholders draft a master plan for making Gazipur livable.
Gazipur Sadar Upazila Chairman Reena Parveen, Bhasha Shaheed College Principal Mukul Kumar Mollick, Bhawal Badre Alam Government College's Bangla teacher Professor Ashim Bhibhakar from, Bangladesh River Foundation Chairman Mohammad Monir Hossen and others, also spoke at the hearing.