Lethal Waters

Southasia - - Briefing -

De­spite a seven month ban on tak­ing long sea routes dur­ing the stormy sea­son, un­safe wa­ter trans­ports in­clud­ing pas­sen­ger launches, trawlers and speed­boats con­tinue ply­ing the ‘dan­ger zone’ of river es­tu­ar­ies in the south­ern re­gion and coastal ar­eas of Bangladesh.

A ban on nav­i­gat­ing 3000 kms long sea routes has been im­posed from March 15 to Oc­to­ber 15 this year and is an ex­ten­sion of the ban im­posed by the coun­try’s Di­rec­tor- ate of Sea Trans­porta­tion in 2000 against the back­drop of sev­eral fa­tal launch and trawler ac­ci­dents.

Lo­cals com­plain that the ban which was aimed at min­i­miz­ing loss of life in the re­gion vul­ner­a­ble to cy­clone and tidal surges has be­come vir­tu­ally in­ef­fec­tive as the authorities have failed to ar­range suf­fi­cient safe ves­sels like sea trucks or those hav­ing sea sur­vey fit­ness cer­tifi­cates dur­ing the long ban pe­riod.

In ab­sence of safe wa­ter trans­porta­tion in the is­land ar­eas, sev­eral un­safe mo­tor launches and ves­sels and a large num­ber of un­reg­is­tered trawlers and speed­boats with­out any fit­ness cer­tifi­cate and route per­mit are re­ported to reg­u­larly ply the coastal waters.

On the other hand, toxic waste from tan­ner­ies con­tin­ues to pol­lute rivers in Bangladesh, pos­ing a se­ri­ous threat to hu­man health as re­lo­ca­tion of the fac­to­ries is caught in a bu­reau­cratic tan­gle. Some of these tan­ner­ies are re­ported to pro­duce some 20,000 cu­bic me­ters of toxic waste laden with chromium and at least 30 other tox­ins ev­ery day. The toxic wa­ter re­sults in skin dis­eases and also puts at risk the al­ready un­safe in­land wa­ter trans­porta­tion sys­tem in the coun­try.

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