Proving many people's foreboding true, the Halda river's largely unspoiled existence is now under threat. The river in Chattogram is the only source of breeding carp and other fishes in sweet water. The disclosure at a recent press conference in the port city of the threat of extinction facing 20 species of the river points to the same old tale: errant industrial units are releasing pollutants into rivers in their typical reckless manner. A few industries near the river in Chattogram have lately been singled out for the damage caused. The industries, along with some poultry farms, have allegedly been releasing chemical and other waste into the river for long. The practice went largely unnoticed. The sudden dying of a large number of fishes on a single night recently brought the extent of the river's water pollution to light.
The plight of the river brought onto the verge of an inevitable decay repeats that of many other rivers in the country. Most of them became silent victims of pollution of their water caused by industries and factories situated on or along their banks. The country's rivers such as Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag etc; near Dhaka, and lately Karnafuli in Chattogram, have been declared highly polluted. The Halda is yet to deteriorate to the level of such rivers. But a committee formed for the protection of the river has good reasons to brace for worse times for Halda. What perturbs them most is the alarmingly falling level of dissolved oxygen in the Halda water. This factor is recognised as the main culprit responsible for extinction of fish and other water creatures in a river.
The decline in Halda's water quality owes to the absence of effluent treatment plants (ETPs) at most of the factories. In the list of 11 recommendations made by the committee, the one of mandatory installation of ETPs occupies a prominent place. It also demands excavation of a vital waste-carrying canal and declaration of the Halda as an 'ecologically endangered' river. But to the committee members' great disappointment, machinations have been found to be at play. They feel troubled over the reported attempts by a few government agencies to gloss over the large-scale pollution. These quarters are trying to play down the serious level of the Halda pollution. In a display of their desperation to stick to their position, they are said to be preparing their own reports on the deaths of the river's fishes and the threat posed to their hazard-free survival in the polluted river.
The Halda committee's suspicion of a collusion reached between the polluters and a section of the authorities may be based on solid grounds. The committee has reached its conclusion about the plight of the river after field studies and laboratory tests of its water. Be that as it may, the nation can ill afford to turn its eyes the other way when a river like the Halda is made to silently enter a phase of disuse with unscrupulous quarters polluting its water unabated. The Halda remains a reliable source of natural fish breeding. It cannot be allowed to die out.
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