Load shedding – enforced by the government from late last month amid depleting foreign currency reserves – has been wreaking havoc on the environment at the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate on the capital's outskirts and surrounding areas, including the River Dhaleshwari.
On a visit to the industrial estate on 7 August, tannery liquid effluent was seen overflowing from the intersections of the effluent pipelines that connect the industries with the effluent pumping stations. From there it is directly flowing to the Dhaleshwari through surface drains.
Officials at several tanneries said liquid waste has been overflowing on the roads for the past few days because of the ongoing power crisis and it is directly polluting the environment.
They said that this problem arises because the effluent pumping stations at various points are shut down during power outages.
Stakeholders said the situation has taken a turn for the worse as it is the peak season for the industrial estate when tanneries process more leather compared to other times of the year, putting pressure on the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) beyond its capacity.
According to sources in the industrial estate, liquid effluents from tanneries go directly through pipelines to effluent pumping stations located at various points. From there the stations pump and send the waste to the CETP.
During power outages, the liquid sediment accumulates and cannot go to the CETP, overflows through the intersections at various points and overflows on roads from there to the surface drain, which finally falls into the nearby river, they added.
The sources also said that as an alternative to electricity, there are three separate generators at the altogether three effluent pumping stations, but all of them have been out of order for the last six months. As a result, pumps stop and the waste overflows and mixes directly with the water of the river during load shedding.
Satyendra Nath Paul, chief engineer of the Dhaka Tannery Industrial Estate Wastage Treatment Plant Company Limited, told The Business Standard, "There is no power shortage in our CETP, but effluent pumping stations sometimes fall under load shedding. "Then these problems arise.
Now the problem has increased particularly due to two phases of power outages."
The chief engineer said the company had already informed the higher authorities regarding the repair of the generators. Once the generators are operational, the problem will not exist anymore.
However, Satyendra Nath Paul could not say anything specific about when the generators will be repaired. Neither could he give any idea about how much liquid waste from tanneries mixes directly with the river through the surface drain every day due to overflows.
On 19 July, the government introduced load shedding across the country in a move to limit its spending on energy imports, a decision which has eventually led to power generation cuts.