Sixty-six per cent of country's manufacturing industries have no waste management systems of their own, posing serious threat to the environment and sustainable business, a government survey reveals.
Insiders, however, said without ensuring environment-friendly industry, the country is unlikely to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations General Assembly for the year 2030.
The Survey of Manufacturing Industries 2018, conducted by state-run Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), also showed that only 34 per cent of industries in the country have waste management systems.
It said out of 46,291 manufacturing industries, 30,552 factories have no chemical and waste management facility.
Micro, small and medium-scale industries are worst performers as only 17 per cent, 39 per cent and 53 per cent of them have waste management system respectively, it added. Performance of large industries was good, but 31 per cent (940 units) of them still have no waste management plants, according to the survey.
For the first time, the BBS has included waste management and banking issues in its SMI following requirements of SDGs, said Lizen Shah Nayeem, deputy director of the statistical agency and focal point of the study.
These were preliminary findings of the survey conducted between April and May, 2019 under a project funded by the government of Bangladesh, he said.
"We've a sample of 8,000 industries in 64 districts of the country." The findings of the survey will be released within few weeks which could divulge details of an actual number of industries having effluent treatment plants, central effluent treatment plants or other waste management techniques, he said.
Dr MA Matin, secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan (BAPA), an environment advocacy group, said chemicals and waste are critical to the manufacture of many products and protection of human health.
Without good management practices, he said, chemicals and hazardous wastes have been posing significant risks to the environment and human health.
"This is why people of the countries like Bangladesh are facing higher risk."
The statistical agency has done a tremendous job and it is time for the environment ministry and climate change and other government entities concerned to work on that, he added.
In urban areas, Dr Matin said, low-income and marginal people are exposed to hazardous chemicals and associated wastes in their jobs or because they reside in polluted areas.
He also pointed out that manufacturing industries have been expanding in rural areas of the country as investors are looking for land and labour at cheap rate.
In rural areas, he said, chemical exposure and environmental pollution are linked to misuse of agricultural chemicals and pollution brought by waterways.
These are impacting natural resources upon which rural people depend, he observed.
Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) researcher Iqbal Hossain said apart from human health perspective, modern chemical and waste management is vital for sound business too.
Sound management of chemicals and waste is an important component of UNDP's efforts to achieve SDGs.
Most of the country's industries will have to be well equipped with waste management and water treatment plants for achieving the goals set for 2030, he said.
The experience of tannery estates in Savar could be an example, he said, adding that the government agencies are yet to make necessary CETPs functional there.
"As a result, the Dhaleshwari River has been heavily polluted by tannery waste. Exports of leather and leather goods are now facing a challenge in the globe."
He said local garment and textile sectors have also been suffering for the same reason as many buyers offer low prices for Bangladeshi products citing environmental issues.
The environment ministry and other agencies concerned will have to work together aiming to make all industries environment-friendly for sustainable business, he added.