Present Status and Impact of Marine Pollution in Chittagong Coastal Area

Eva Shill

Chittagong is of the coastal region of Bangladesh based on the coastal zone criteria. It is the second-largest city and also known as port city of Bangladesh with large economic value. About 92% of country’s trade is handled through this port. But this area is polluted because of various activities. Based on the geographical and commercial value most of the industries are situated around Chittagong especially on the banks of the river or shoreline of Bay of Bengal where the discharge of waste is easier. Karnaphuli is the main river of the Chittagong. Different types of water vehicles are continuously polluting the marine environment. As whole city located on the banks of the river, so the pollution from land-based sources like domestic waste disposal, sewage from cities, illegal construction etc. are also  serious issue in Chittagong. Loss of coastal habitats arise from a range of development activities such as, dredging   for enhancing harbors and channels and river side development , had a  profound  effect upon the ecosystem and resource of the estuarine region.  Source of marine pollution in Chittagong can be classified in two categories: Ship source pollution and land based pollution. Shipping is the marked source that pollutes the waterways of Chittagong. There are different sources of pollution from ships. These are:

Image Courtesy: Muhammad robiul islam

Oily-water discharge : Due to leakage from vessel’s pumps and pipes lubricating oil, fuel oil, grease and water etc. are collected in bilge area and directly discharged into the water in case of fishing vessel where oily water separators are not fitted. During tank process of crude oil tanks of these vessels contributes to marine pollution because cleaning process contains detergent, solid matters, rusty scales from corrosion are discharged overboard. Sometimes accidental Spillage occurs due to malfunctioning of valves, pumps and rupture of pipes or operational fault during loading or unloading of crude oil at oil terminals, oil refinery, or oil storage site. An undetermined amount of oil spill occurred in Chittagong port area due hose rupturing in 2016. The tanks overflow could happen if someone is not watching the level of oil loading into the ship’s tanks.

Pollution from fishing vessel: A total of 205 registers fishing trawler are running through the Karnaphuli River. Firstly there is no sewage treatment plants in fishing vessels, so all vessels discharge sewage directly in river water .Beside they continuously dumping waste, garbage, sewage, bilge water, materials washout from Deck and Engine Room, processing wastage, solid materials, discarded food waste, galley wastage, rotten fish, etc. and other item such as discarded fishing nets cause harm to the marine environment or create a navigational hazard. The Marine Biodiversity in coastal areas is hampered by overfishing, ghost fishing, bottom trawling, etc.

Tanker accidents: In order to show the vulnerability of the Chittagong marine environment a number of vessel casualties and other oil spill records are examined. These oil spillages had adverse effects on the environment.

Pollution in Chittagong outer anchorage: Because of limited draft of Chittagong port most of the foreign vessels wait at the anchorage area. By taking advantage of lax law and implementation most of the ships dump waste in the outer anchorage by defying the international regulations. Not only foreign ships, local ships and fishing vessels also use outer anchorage as a safe dumping zone. Pollution from bulk carrier is another concerning issue in this area. Most of the bulk carriers discharge into lightering barges at the Chittagong Outer Anchorage. It increasing congestion and also contribute in dust pollution.

Anti-fouling paint: is a specialized paint used to the ship’s hull to prevent or slow the growth of marine organism which can affect the vessel performance and durability. These chemical is a threat to the marine environment and to humans when this paint is scrapped off old ships and released into water and passed into the food chain. Both humans and aquatic animals face health hazard after eating contaminated food.

Sound pollution: Karnaphuli is the one the busiest channel because of port activities. Sound pollution is a common issue in this area. This river is also a breeding zone for Ganges dolphin which species are highly affected because of maritime activities in this region. Manmade noises interrupt communication, hampering migration, communication, hunting, and reproduction patterns for many marine animals.

About one-third of pollutants in Chittagong come from land-based sources and continuously contaminate river water. Most of the land-based sources include:

Ship breaking industries: The most dangerous pollution source in Chittagong is the ship breaking and recycling industry which contributes to different types of marine pollution. The wastes from scrapped ships, including oils and POPs, Asbestos, Heavy metals ,PVC, PCBs, ODS, Paints (TBT), Heavy metals, Waste liquid organic, Miscellaneous waste liquids inorganic, reusable liquids organics. Fire and explosion by explosive and flammable materials are also a major hazard of ship breaking yard. In 2019 two of the workers have died and six workers sustained burn injuries because of fire explosion in crude oil tanker at Mahinur Ship Breaking yard.

Fertilizer Factory: TSPC, CFUL, DAP fertilizer company, and KUFCO are major fertilizer factories of Chittagong situated adjacent to the Karnaphuli River. All factories discharge waste into the river and also causes air pollution. In 2016 a large amount of toxic ammonia gas was released from the Di-ammonium Phosphate Factory due to an overpressure explosion of an ammonia tank. The toxic ammonia gas spread over several kilometers and nearly 250 people fell sick inhaling the toxic ammonia gas. 10 tons of fishes nearby ponds was dead due to this explosion.

Paper Mill:  Karnaphuli Paper Mill is one of the largest mill in Bangladesh, established in Chandraghona in 1953. About 24 chemicals used to produce paper such as Caustic soda, sodium sulfate, chlorine, calcium, etc. for improving the strength and physical properties of the paper. About 80% of the Washed chemicals are recovered, reused and the remaining 20% is discharged into the river untreated. The waste water contains sulfite liquor, black liquor (containing Na2C03, Na2S, and NaOH) and hazardous chemicals. Since 1953 this mill running without environmental clearance and continuously discharging waste into Karnaphuli River.

Pollution from domestic activities: In everyday life, people produce different kinds of wastes.  For example,  sewage,  waste water  from  cooking and cleaning activities; use of organic materials  to  inorganic chemicals, plastics, bottles, packages, etc.  Usually, people from urban and rural side dump the household wastes in the nearby water sources and all these gradually flows into river that leads to marine pollution.

Illegal infrastructure: According to a district administration survey, 2181 illegal structures were found along the Karnaphuli river banks by following an earlier order by the Court.  Tin-shed houses and concrete structure builds and filling up the banks of Karnaphuli River were noticed at Bakolia in Chittagong. People living on those sites drastically discharge different waste into the river.

The coastal zone of Chittagong contains several resources like wildlife sanctuaries, Reserve forest, Eco-park, Halda River (natural breading zone of fish and crab), Parki beach (a sanctuary for red crab), Mangrove forest, and a lot of beaches that have important conservation values. But marine pollution creates an extensive effect to the entire ecology of the coastal environment which include:

The impact of abounded, lost or discarded fishing gear has a number of factors that degrades the marine environment in several ways: continuously fishing target and non-target species, degrade benthic life, synthetic material enter into the marine food chain can cause health hazard, create navigational hazards, losing asthenic value of beaches and coastal tourist areas.

Marine litter comes from shoreline and other activities has wide range of environmental, social, and economic impacts. It damages directly or indirectly marine ecosystems and human activities and properties such as, Irritated tourists, swimmers, economic loss for cleaning etc. Micro plastic affects marine and wild life, including seabirds, marine mammals and fish through entanglement and ingestion, and humans when the micro plastic enters the food chain causes cancer, Interruption of fishing operation and damaging fishing gear, navigational hazard etc.

Image: Author

Pollution, subsidence, sea-level rise, infrastructure development that alter sediment flow and contribute to coastal habitat loss. Wetlands and shorelines are becoming more vulnerable due to soil erosion, seawater entering into the freshwater environments, causing floods, water quality is being degraded, and human and wildlife lost their habitat.

Oil spills are directly affect the aquatic, wildlife and human. They suffer immediate health problems such as skin irritation, altering of the immune system, reproductive or developmental damage, liver disease, neurological effects etc. through ingestion, absorption, and inhalation. People who had worked in cleaning up the spill had twice as much mercury in their urine than normal levels.

The coastal and marine ecosystem of our country is comprised of fisheries, mangroves, beaches, coral ecosystems, plankton, sea grass, and sea-weeds that provide a range of ecosystem services. Coastal deforestation, degradation, beach pollution, and other pollution source losing ecosystem service which is part of the blue economy. This pollution affects the total economy of the whole country.

People are directly affected by marine litter in the form of physical damage, for an example injury from broken glass, medical waste like as syringes, bandages, etc. and sewage pose a serious health hazard through transmission of infectious diseases.  Marine pollution also affected People’s livelihoods. For example, polluted water and beaches does not attract tourists. Al these reduces the income for coastal communities.

We can’t stop it, but we can try to reduce it. There are some Strategies to mitigate problem: The aims of Pollution prevention in the initial stage is to reduce all pollutions from lower to higher levels of the source to achieve a pollution-free environment. Installation of new technologies to combating oil pollution and reducing plastics pollution. Increasing environmental knowledge and awareness generation program. To achieve a successful marine and coastal resources preservation, ensure stakeholder engagement like managers, policy-makers, civil society, general scientists and specialists, marine service providers and geo-spatial technology specialists.

Introduce a green tax from the local level, Identifying the main source of pollution, its impact on the environment, and imposing an eco-tax can be a good approach for the country’s economy and environmental protection. Increase of safety awareness onboard vessels to prevent accidental pollution. Lack of comprehensive marine environment laws in Bangladesh major causes of marine pollution. The government should concentrate on existing regulations and think forward to implement new laws.

Finally a cross-border approach is an essential step for minimize marine pollution effectively. Because water does not maintain any boundaries, and pollution reduction cannot fully minimize by a single country. Marine pollution creates impact on fisheries, habitat destruction, chemical reaction on human body and food chain, losing aesthetic value of tourism activities, as well as entire economy. For this reason, effective solution must be needed which require a substantial financial investment and time.

Author is a Postgraduate Student of Maritime Science Department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University, Dhaka ,Bangladesh


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