Industries will have to pay for the waste water they produce and compensate for the damage they cause to the environment, according to a policy drafted to restrict industrial water use and unbridled pollution.
The policy outlines clean water regulation in industries and control of industrial effluents that cause water pollution and advocates that the government should introduce a water and wastewater tariff for industrial water use – along with other existing domestic and commercial water tariffs.
It also proposes imposing "polluter pays" to make industries responsible for pollution pay full compensation against the damage they have done to the environment.
The draft prepared by the Water Resources Planning Organisation (Warpo) of the water resources ministry says industrial water price should reflect, to the best extent possible, economic and environmental externalities.
Titled "Industrial Water Use Policy," it has received the ministry's go-ahead in principle and will be placed before the cabinet soon for approval.
Many rivers like the Buriganga in Dhaka and Shitalakshya in Narayanganj are under threat today due to polluted water from factories. Biodiversity is also in crisis due to the polluted river water.
Against this backdrop, the government, for the first time, has formulated this policy of using water in industry.
The draft policy says industrial water price should reflect, to the best extent possible, economic and environmental externalities.
The proposal observes that factories are using water in the production process without proper planning. Water waste and pollution are increasing simultaneously for poor planning.
Warpo says the policy focuses on three areas – optimising industrial water use, reducing water pollution from industrial effluents, and ensuring effective monitoring for policy compliance.
Md Alamgir Hossain, director of Warpo, said, water resource development and conservation are of particular importance in ensuring availability of adequate quantity and acceptable quality water for industrial purposes.
The Warpo official also observed that water is a finite and vulnerable resource that will be considered an economic resource and priced to convey its scarcity value to all users and provide motivation for its conservation.
The pricing structure will match the goals and needs of the water provider and the population served. Water rates will be lower for basic consumption, increasing with commercial and industrial use. The rates for surface and groundwater will reflect, to the best extent possible, their actual cost of delivery.
"Pricing of industrial water should ensure its efficient use and reward conservation. To identify water scarce areas, pricing can be adjusted to water availability", the policy mentions.
The policy suggests pricing industrial water based on the availability of water in a particular region. It also proposes to fix the price considering water management.
It is expected that the industrial establishments will be more careful in using water because of this policy adoption.
Warpo says water use demand is variable in industries depending on types but all industries are getting the same quantity of water without taking into consideration the need of the industry.
The policy proposes allocating water for the industries based on their classification and type of industrial water use.
Water and wastewater tariffs and polluter pays have been proposed to curb the use of wastewater in industrial production, Warpo officials said.
They added that guidelines and committees would be formed to determine tariffs and polluter pays. However, opinion will be sought at an inter-ministerial meeting before that.
The Directorate of Environment currently collects fines from polluting entities according to the present environment law. A Tk31 fine is imposed against one litre of liquid waste from a factory.
The Director General of the Directorate of Environment is responsible to impose this fine.
But the amount of damage from pollution is not being assessed properly. The policy proposes to involve local governments and non-government organisations in the assessment of pollution damage for proper assessment of damages.
Water expert engineer Inamul Haque said water and wastewater tariff is a good initiative of the government.
However, collecting polluter pays will not be easy, he observed.
"The Directorate of Environment has not been able to stop pollution even after amending the law and policies. Now elected representatives of the local government outside the environment directorate should be given the power to sue the polluter institutions. Due to their responsibility to the people, the people's representatives will fulfill this responsibility properly.
"This will also increase the revenue of the local government."
He said there should be compensation realised for pollution, not fines. "Industry entrepreneurs do not care much about the small monetary burden of fines. Considering this, polluter pays should be stricter about imposition."
According to a World Bank study, waste produced in washing and dyeing factories in the apparel sector in Bangladesh is one of the major sources of pollution.
To produce one tonne of clothes, 200 tonnes of waste water is discharged to the rivers. One lakh crore litres of polluted waste from steel mills and 45,000 crore litres from paper mills are discharged into the water, the report adds.
In its assessment, Levi Strauss found that more than 3,000 litres of water is used during the full production cycle of a single pair of jeans. Of that amount, 49% is used to grow cotton and 45% by customers when they wash their jeans. The remaining 6% water is used during the manufacturing process of the cloth.
Ananta Apparels has signed an agreement with Levi as the first Bangladeshi vendor to reduce water consumption, its Managing Director Sharif Zahir told The Business Standard.
"We have already achieved the Levi Water Action target by modernising production. We no longer use manual production techniques," he said.
"The traditional method requires a minimum of 55 litres of water to wash a pair of jeans. Under the new scheme, we can halve the water use and reduce the wash cycle," said Sharif.
As in Bangladesh, textile and dyeing are major sources of water pollution across the globe. Experts say water pollution by the textile industry may be increasing in the world.
The Environmental Impact of the Textile and Clothing Industry Report by European Parliamentary Research Service says the global textiles and clothing industry was responsible for the consumption of 79 billion cubic metres of water, 1,715 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emission and 92 million tonnes of waste. If we keep it business-as-usual, these numbers are estimated to increase by at least 50%, it adds.
In this situation, global attention to pollution and alternative water sources has increased.
Keeping pace with the world, a number of recommendations have been made in the draft policy to ensure the proper use of water and prevent pollution in industry.
Implementation of zero discharge plan
In the policy Warpo also says the government will consider supply of water for effluent discharge possibility, considering the strict enforcement of "zero liquid discharge plan".
Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) is a treatment process designed to remove all the liquid waste from a system.
The policy advocates promoting and incentivising installation of cleaner production management systems that incorporate good housekeeping, process optimisation, and resource efficiency through recovery, reuse and recycling for implementation of the zero discharge plan.
Ensuring use of CEPT
For ensuring the use of common effluent treatment plants (CETP), Warpo advises the government to ensure land allocation for setting up economic zones in line with the operational procedure and capacity of the CETP.
In the policy paper, Warpo recommends promoting resource efficient cleaner production (RECP). Resource efficient and cleaner production is a preventive, enterprise-level approach to improving resource use, reducing environmental pollution and contributing to sustainable industrial development.
Zoning for industrial water use
The policy calls for detailed investigation of water availability. It also stresses the need to investigate effluent discharge possibilities prior to setting up economic zones.
Use of alternative water sources
For long-term water security, the government aims to limit the use of potable water for industrial purposes that do not require potable water. Industries will actively seek alternative water sources for their industrial production.
The policy advocates that buildings of industrial production sites will strictly follow the rainwater harvesting directive of Bangladesh National Building Code and arrange to use reclaimed water.
Reclaimed water refers to water that has been used once, has subsequently undergone treatment processes, and is then intentionally used again. For industrial water use, water is to be reclaimed from the system of production, says Warpo.