Aminbazar's wasteland story
Is this the way of delivering on the constitutional duty to protect the environment?
Originally intended to be a sanitary landfill, the Aminbazar waste management plant has turned into a 52-acre open dump. The Business Standard photographer Saikat Bhadra captures the lives of those who live near this plant, filled with waste towering 30 metres above road level.
Aminbazar waste dumping depot was built in 2007 over 52 acres of land. To serve the city's northern part, the master plan of the landfill was created in 2005 with Japanese assistance.
Originally intended to be a sanitary landfill, it is now more than an open dumping ground with waste towering 30 metres above road level and liquid waste overflowing the surrounding areas.
But the landfill was supposed to have built-in facilities like rubberised liner and treatment plant to prevent liquid waste from polluting adjacent land and water.
Uncontrolled dumping of wastes of all sorts – household, commercial, industrial, medical, kitchen market, construction generated in Dhaka North – already exhausted the landfill's capacity in 2017, much before the expected lifetime of 20 years.
The victims of the landfill are around 50,000-60,000 people from two villages named Konda and Baliarpur. They were not consulted during the design of the project. The villages are situated within close proximity of the landfill.
Most of the inhabitants of the two villages earn their livelihood from agriculture and fishing. But locals claimed that the adjacent agricultural lands have become infertile after the inauguration of the landfill. Earlier, rice and other crops were cultivated in those lands.
Untreated solid and liquid wastes pollute the water bodies, including the Turag River, during the rainy season. In dry season and stormy weather, polythene and other lightweight wastes fly from the landfill and spread over the surrounding areas.
Solid wastes float on the water and get carried away for miles as there are no walls or barriers dividing the garbage and the water.
Locals said their life has become unbearable for the bad smell emitting from the landfill.
The city authority has so far remained nonchalant about the whole thing and is now planning to expand it further.
The worrisome situation drew attention of the parliamentary standing committee on the environment, forest and climate change ministry. Its members at a meeting in September expressed concerns at the situation and recommended fining Dhaka North City Corporation for polluting the environment.
Referring to the laws on protection of environment, the committee chief Saber Hossain Chowdhury at a news briefing said: "There is a legal provision to realise fine for polluting environment. All are equal in the eye of law. Thus the Dhaka North City Corporation cannot be given special benefit."
The state has been constitutionally responsible to protect the environment since 2011. But in reality, nothing has been done to hold the north city corporation accountable and the people's right to clean environment stays threatened.