According to the World Bank records, Bangladesh is the tenth largest user of plastic and polythene in the world. Its use has increased more than threefold in between 2005 and 2022 year.
In Dhaka, 80 per cent of used plastic is being discarded on ground after single use. From there these enter rivers via drains and canals. And, the Bay of Bengal is the final destination.
Bangladesh currently ranks sixth globally in polluting the sea with plastic and polythene through the rivers.
The joint research done by two German universities including Hamburg University and Independent University of Bangladesh’s International Centre for Climate Change and Development was published in the science magazine Earth last year.
That research titled, ‘Dhaka Sitting on a Plastic Bomb: Issues and Concerns around Waste Governance, Water Quality, and Public Health’ advised fast reduction of polythene usage before a massive catastrophe.
The World Bank published its report in the same year. It provided advice and a plan of action to cut down the use and production of plastic by 50 per cent within 2021 to 2030.
When asked, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, chairman of parliamentary standing committee on Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, told Prothom Alo, “It is tough to end the use of polythene and plastic without creating proper alternatives at first. So we have proposed manufacture of products which can be recycled.”
The effects of six types of plastic-polythene pollution in the country have been identified in the research. It said, annually 17 thousand tonnes of thin plastic and polythene is being discarded on the ground in the country. And 73 per cent of this is mixing with the soil and water. In turns, these are mixing with food and water to eventually enter the human body.
This is leading to a rise in different diseases starting with a weakening of the immunity system to skin diseases, high blood pressure and ailments related to the nervous system.
Hossain Ahmed Taufiq, a lecturer at Independent University, conducted another research on the connection between waterlogging and the use of plastic and polythene in Dhaka.
In that 2021 research he showed, polythene usage goes up in Dhaka with the sale of seasonal fruits during monsoon. The major part of that polythene is thrown to the ground. This is carried by rainwater to the rivers through drains and canals. As a consequence, the city is getting water logged with just a little rain.
Atiqul Islam, mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation speaking to Prothom Alo, said citizens should decrease polythene usage and use use jute products.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) told Prothom Alo, Dhaka along with other big cities of the country bear proof that plastic usage cannot be stopped just by making laws.
She said political clout is being used to continue the manufacture of polythene bags in the country. She said a layer of polythene is lining the river beds in Sylhet and this is said to be causing the recent floods there. The use of polythene can be banned immediately if there is political commitment, she added.