Locals of Mirsharai Upazila in Chattogram formed a human chain on Sunday to protest at the falling groundwater levels in eight unions and one municipality of the Upazila, which has caused an acute water crisis in the areas.
Nearly a thousand protestors from Mirsharai's 16 unions took part in the human chain organised by the Mayor of Baraiyarhat in front of the Bangladesh Steel Re-Rolling Mills Ltd (BSRM) factory gate in the Sonapahar area under Jorarganj Union of the Upazila.
According to locals, recently, groundwater levels have fallen as low as 150 feet, where earlier, water could be found under 50 or 70 feet. They blamed the crisis on the BSRM factory's use of deep tube wells to draw water for making metal billets.
At the protest, Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, a local MP, urged BSRM to keep the factory closed for the next two months and asked them to relocate it to Mirsharai Economic Zone within a year.
"BSRM has to make arrangements to pipe in water from the Feni River to the factory in two months and close the factory at this time. No scrap metal can enter the factory during this time either," Hossain added.
He warned that if the BSRM factory does not stop drawing groundwater using deep tube wells within a week, more protesters will come and seal off the tube wells.
To know how much water the factory needs a day, The Business Standard contacted BSRM's Factory Manager (Administration) in Mirsharai Delwar Hossain Mollah.
He said, "We need about 750 cubic metres of water in the factory every day. We bring around 250–260 cubic metres from the Feni River using vouchers. The remaining 500 cubic metres are drawn from four deep tube wells."
Mollah said factory authorities met with the Upazila administration on 24 May and since then, the factory has temporarily stopped drawing water from deep tube wells and has only been using water from the Feni River.
The Business Standard then contacted the Executive Director of BSRM, Tapan Sengupta, and enquired about the allegations made against them by locals. Sengupta denied the accusations that the water crisis is caused by BSRM's deep tube wells.
He said, "All industrial factories in the country have deep tube wells. Other factories and even households in Mirsharai have deep tube wells. So, there is no logical reason to blame BSRM alone."
Speaking about the water supply methods of the factory, Sengupta said, "We harvest rainwater and also bring water from the Feni River with the vouchers that we have. The railway authority has not yet permitted us to bring in water with pipelines."