People in Habiganj municipality are suffering from severe pollution as the authorities themselves dump waste in open spaces.
People alleged that most of the wastes, collected by the municipality authorities, are dumped by the side of the bypass road adjacent to the new stadium. As the road is used by thousands of people including students of different schools and colleges every day, they have to endure bad odour.
There are also allegations that municipality waste workers often burn the piles of dumped wastes to make room in the open dumping grounds. As a result, office activities in the surrounding areas including District Ansar VDP office, Vrindavan Government College, Roses Kindergarten, Judge Court, Judicial Magistrate Court are being disrupted due to toxic smoke.
Hundreds of families in Rajnagar, Sultan Mahmudpur residential areas have to live with their doors and windows shut to protect themselves from smoke.
Locals said that children and elderly people are suffering from shortness of breath due to the toxic smoke emitted from burning wastes in the open dumping grounds.
Tofazzal Sohel, general secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa), Habiganj branch, said, "It is unthinkable that the roads of a first-class municipality could be so dirty. It is incomprehensible how the municipality has been setting fire to dumped wastes in a populated area year after year."
An official of the Ansar office, who does not want to be identified, said, "I have to live in different parts of the country because of my job. But I have never seen such a bad environment. It is difficult to breathe here. The whole office area becomes dark due to smoke."
However, the conservancy department has denied the allegations of burning waste.
Meanwhile, the canal beside the bypass road has been filled with wastes and causing waterlogging in the adjacent areas when it rains.
Bangladesh Environmental Movement and various social organisations have organised various programmes against the environmental pollution caused by dumping wastes in open spaces. But the municipality authorities have not taken any steps so far.
Tapan Dev, a student of Vrindavan Government College, said, "I cannot concentrate in class due to the foul odour and dark smoke. The situation is so unbearable that I vomited several days in college."
Dr Lokman, a doctor living in the area, said, "The smoke of burning polythene and plastic is very harmful. It is especially dangerous for respiratory patients, children and the elderly."
According to sources in the engineering department of the municipality, the initiative to build a dumping station was taken about 10 years ago during the tenure of former mayor GK Gaus. The district administration allotted two acres of government khas land in Subidpur union of Baniachang upazila.
The municipality also paid around Tk18 lakh for purchasing the land. But the initiative was not implemented as the local people were against the dumping station.
Recently, around two acres and five decimals of land has been selected in Uttarkul area of Richi union which is five kilometres away from Habiganj Sadar. The Water Development Board, Sylhet has widened the Khoai river dam in collaboration with the district administration for the movement of garbage trucks.
But as the land is in a low-lying area, the authorities have to fill it with soil for transforming it into a dumping ground.
Dilip Dutt, engineer, Habiganj Municipality, could not inform when the piles of garbage could be shifted to Uttarkul area from the city's bypass road.
He said, "The municipal council has given utmost importance to the issue of waste management. A workshop was arranged by West Power Private Ltd, an affiliate of United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), at the deputy commissioner's conference room on 9 February for setting up a dump plant. People in the workshop said that waste management plants will be set up in six districts of the country in a short time."
About 1.5 lakh people live in Habiganj municipality which was established in 1881.