The present condition on the back side of the Dhaka EPZ which was established in 1983. The whole area visible is submerged by dark black water where cropping is absurd, and other environmental and human impacts adverse.
Two central effluent treatment plants (ETPs) are expected to go into operation next year in the export-processing zones in Dhaka and Chittagong to better manage toxic waste water, officials have said.
Factories in the EPZs will get the facilities to share the centrally installed ETPs for treating waste water before discharge.
The projects will be implemented under a private-public partnership, where Singapore-based D-Water CETP Eco System BD Ltd got the contract for constructing the unique plant in the DEPZ. Chittagong Waste Water Treatment Plants Ltd. will install another in the CEPZ.
The Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) in partnership with the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund (BICF) has initiated the schemes.
The fund, with contribution from British aid agency DFID and the European Commission (EC), is managed by the World Bank’s lending arm International Finance Corporation (IFC).
Work on installation of the plant at DEPZ began in April, and it will use Electro Contaminant Removal (ECR) machineries, a state-of-art technology in treating waste water.
Construction of the plant at CEPZ started in July, which will use the traditional bio-physical and chemical technology equipment.
Peter Niederberger, IFC’s environmental consultant, told bdnews24.com that dyeing and washing plants in Bangladesh often discharge untreated toxic wastes into the water.
“It affects the health and wellbeing of thousands of people in the communities nearby,” Niederberger said.
Most of the factories in Bangladesh do not have own plants, though they are required by law to have one, while allegations have it that many such plants installed in factories remain unused.
Niederberger said they are giving technical assistance to Bepza so its staffs can assess and monitor the design, construction and initial start-up operations of the plants.
“The plants are expected to provide treatment levels that meet the standard requirements of the Department of Environment,” he said.
He praised Bepza’s role.
“Its commitment to improving the environmental conditions of its EPZs is commendable, and if it is successful, it may become a model for the rest of the country,” he said.
AKM Mahbubur Rahman, member (finance) of Bepza, told bdnews24.com that the dyeing and washing plants in the DEPZ are discharging around 1.20 crore gallons of waste waters every day.
Though over 25 industries have their own ETPs, many do not operate the plants regularly, as the cost of operations is a bit higher. He said usually Tk 60 is needed to treat every 1000 gallons.
Because of the negligence, the surrounding areas of the EPZs are facing massive environmental pollution, causing public health hazards.
Once installed, Rahman said, the factories would require spending Tk40 for 1000 gallons to get service from the central plants.
After the successful installation of the two projects in the country more such plants would be schemed in other EPZs and industrial areas, Rahman added.
He said Bepza proposed the government to set up five CETPs for the industries in 2005, but the process was halted in 2007 under the caretaker government.
Jamil D Ahsan, chairman of D-Water, told bdnews24.com this pioneer project would be implemented with the help of Eco System Ltd., a Singapore- based manufacturing company of effluent treatment plant machineries.
Md Hasibul Islam, managing director of Chittagong Waste Water Treatment Plants, told bdnews24.com, “We’re developing the basic structure now. Hopefully the plant will go in operation by July next year.”
Projected cost of the plants was estimated $ 5 million for DEPZ and $ 7 million for that of CEPZ.
On June 23, the High Court ordered installation of ETPs for all industries, including the tanneries, by June 2010, following a petition by environmental and human rights groups.
The court also directed the industries secretary to ensure that no new industry is set up without effective steps to check environmental pollution.
Industries minister Dilip Barua on July 19 said that all new industries must get ETPs.
The central bank in its recent refinance scheme of Tk 200 crore included low-interest loans for setting up ETPs.