The daily waste of Rangamati Municipal town is being dumped in the Manikchari Betar Kendra area– the entry point to the popular tourist destination. As the waste disposal site is located on the side of Rangamati-Chattogram Highway, millions of people have to pass through the area, which has a foul odor, to enter the town.
Not only that, but when it rains in the rainy season, Kaptai Lake, one of the largest artificial lakes in the region, becomes the final destination of hundreds of tonnes of waste from the municipal town. Not only is the lake being polluted but the bottom of it being filled in, causing health risks to thousands of people.
Rangamati Municipality sources said the municipality cleaners collect 30 to 35 tonnes of waste from the town and dump it in that area every day. This waste is washed away in the river during the rainy season and falls into Kaptai Lake after crossing the Uluchhari and Vedvedi cantonment areas. Residents of the dumping point area have been suffering for a long time due to a lack of waste management.
Jasim Uddin, 40, a resident of the Betar Kendra area, said the total waste of Rangamati municipality is being dumped here. In the rainy season, this waste floats in the rain water and goes into the lake. The bad odor from the waste is causing a lot of trouble in the surrounding area. Various animals, including crows, are taking dirt from the garbage pile and leaving it in the yards of nearby houses.
In a spot visit, The Business Standard saw that all the waste of Rangamati town is being brought by municipal trucks and dumped near the hills in the area of Manikchari radio station. This waste is falling into Kaptai Lake through the Chhara (Small River) after crossing: Ansar Camp, Uluchhari, Cantonment Area, and Katachhari.
In addition to this waste, household waste is also being dumped everywhere–which is polluting Kaptai Lake's water.
The land of Uluchhari has become barren as various plastics and polythene have been washed away by the Chhara.
Meanwhile, the Department of Public Health Engineering draws water from Kaptai Lake and after purifying it, supplies it to the municipality. Locals said the water has become unusable due to increased pollution in some places of the lake.
Mohammad Ali, a member of the Socheton Nagorik Committee (Sonak) Rangamati, said the waste management in the Rangamati municipal town is not going well. The garbage is being dumped in Kaptai Lake. Everyone smells the bad odor while entering the town because of the dumped garbage beside the main road.
"Although several mayors have ruled the municipality, none have been able to make a proper waste management system. Municipal waste needs to be disposed of in an isolated place," he said.
Chakma Circle Chief Raja Barrister Debashish Roy said, "Even if we drank this water in my childhood, now it is impossible. The municipality has to be more responsible so that the waste of Rangamati town does not pollute the lake."
The health department says rising water levels in the lake are also causing various waterborne diseases.
Rangamati former civil surgeon Dr Bipash Khisa said the town people are now under threat of catching waterborne diseases as they use Kaptai Lake's water. The hospital is admitting diarrhea and cholera patients almost all the time. This pollution is spreading various water borne diseases including Hepatitis B.
Sadar Upazila Agriculture Officer Apru Marma said the farmland is being damaged because of the presence of various plastics and polythene along with the municipal waste. Farmers are under a health risk and the fertility of the land is being lost.
However, the municipality has failed to take up any project on waste management.
Rangamati Mayor Akbar Hossain Chowdhury said the rate of waste discharge into the lake has increased since 2017.
He said the municipality is looking for a new place to dump the garbage. The dumping site will be shifted there if a new site is found.
A wall is being constructed to prevent the waste from draining into Kaptai Lake, he added.