-54 of enter from India
-3 from Myanmar
Rivers in Bangladesh receive 24 times more plastic waste from the neighbouring countries than the country itself dumps and this is causing a serious threat to the rivers, waterways, human health and the maritime biodiversity here.
The transboundary plastic waste comes from China, India, Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan – all of them are situated upstream of Bangladesh and have an interconnected river system.
A report entitled "Transboundary movement of plastic waste: Situation of Bangladesh" of the Environment and Social Development Organization (Esdo) states that Bangladesh produces around 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day but three major rivers – Padma, Meghna and Jamuna – carry 73,000 tonnes of plastic waste to the Bay of Bengal every day.
These wastes are posing a serious threat to rivers, waterways, human health and marine biodiversity.
The Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna River systems drain a total catchment area of about 1.72 million square kilometre, out of which only 7% is in Bangladesh, says the Esdo study that is based on secondary data sources. It is scheduled to be unveiled on Thursday (March 18).
The Esdo report states that more than a quarter of all global wastes could be pouring into oceans through just 10 rivers, eight of which are in Asia. The Meghna and the Brahmaputra flowing across India and Bangladesh are on the list.
Being the lowest riparian land of the Major Himalayan Rivers, Bangladesh has no control over the huge transboundary flows of plastic waste via these waterways as there is no international treaty in this regard.
However, the Basel Convention Ban Amendment prohibits the plastic waste trade considering plastic as a hazardous waste.
Shahriar Hossain, secretary general of Esdo said, "Bangladesh can start a regional dialogue if it ratifies the Basel Convention Ban Amendment, which prohibits illegal plastic trade and transboundary movement."
"The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) is working on a treaty which will control transboundary waste movement especially through the natural ways, like waterways. In a meeting of the UNEA this month 40 countries agreed with the initiatives where Sri Lanka is playing a sound role. As a downstream country, Bangladesh needs to play a proactive role on this treaty, which can be signed next year," he said.
Among the Bangladeshi rivers, 57 are transboundary rivers and 54 of them enter Bangladesh from India and three from Myanmar.
India is the second highest mismanaged plastic waste generator in the world while china is the fifth.
"It is a good news that India is taking some steps to reduce plastic waste and they will stop using single-use-plastic in 2022. If India can restrict dumping of plastic waste into the river, transboundary movement of plastic waste through our rivers will reduce significantly," said Shahriar Hossain.
Waterways and plastic waste
The River Buriganga is now one of the most polluted rivers in Bangladesh because of the rampant waste dumping including plastic waste. The riverbed of Karnaphuli is covered by polythene and plastic materials and dredging is hampered due to plastic and polythene waste layers.
A research conducted by the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) revealed that the layer of polythene and plastic materials in Karnaphuli's river bed is 2-7 meters deep.
Effects of plastic on human health and marine life
A study styled "Plastic and Health: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet," conducted by the Centre for International Environmental Law, states that the micro plastics entering the human body via direct exposures through ingestion or inhalation can lead to an array of health problems including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammation, autoimmune conditions, neurodegenerative diseases, and stroke.
Also, the hazardous chemicals we consume via plastic packaging remains in our body. Scientists have also found micro plastics in 114 marine species, and around one-third of these end up on our plates.
We even breathe plastic due to poor waste management as we incinerate unsegregated plastic waste.
Ocean turtles that ingest only 14 bits of plastic have an enhanced danger of death. Plastic waste kills up to 1 million seabirds a year. Scientists estimate that 60% of all seabird species have eaten pieces of plastic, a figure they predict will rise to 99% by 2050.
The Department of Environment's director general and its Natural Resource Management wing's director did not respond to telephone calls, while its director of International Convention wing was too busy to make a comment regarding the matter.