Along with pollution and encroachment, plants on either banks of Karnaphuli river are being destroyed. Though different plant species can be found in the forests of the hilly regions upstream, the forestlands downstream have vanished.
A team of researchers has identified 528 species of plants on eithers side from the estuary of the river to the Kaptai dam. But, most of them are upstream. And 81 of those identified plant species are endangered.
This was revealed in a study conducted to determine the life, plant diversity and causes of pollution in Karnaphuli river. A group of Chittagong University teachers and students were involved in this research conducted by the non-government humanitarian, social development and research organisation Effective Creation on Human Opinion (ECHO). Findings of the study were revealed on Saturday afternoon at a press conference in Chittagong Press Club.
Omar Faruque, associate professor at the botany department of Chattogram University and general secretary of ECHO, led the research. Shahed Murad and SM Abu Yusuf, members of ECHO’s editorial board, were present at the press conference.
Omar Faruque Russel said, 113 of the 528 species of plants belong to the same family. There are 144 species of large trees, 69 species of shrubs, 58 species of creepers, 244 species of herbs and 13 species of parasites among them.
The survey started in January this year and continued till September. The research stated, 155 species of plants have been identified in Baklia Char located in the middle of the river.
On the other hand, 120 species of plants have been found in the area between the river estuary in the Bay of Bengal and Kalurghat, known as the most polluted part of the river.
The list of plants identified in this research includes 355 medicinal plants as well. These include kalmegh (green chiretta), jijol (mango-pine), beguni hurhuria (fringed spider flower), hargoja (acanthus), chatim (devil’s tree), akanda (crown flower), tufanilota (climbing hempvine), hatishur (Indian heliotrope), sonalu (golden shower tree) and shornolota (dodders) were found among them.
The number of species that may become endangered in the future is 63 that include kurz, shyamlota (black creeper), chinalota (Chinese evergreen), etc.
Omar Faruque said that plants have been destroyed in various ways in the area stretching from the river mouth to Kalurghat. Plus, the number of plants has reduced in this region due to various reasons including establishment of factories and settlements as well as poaching.
However, there are dense forestlands on either side in the area between Kalurghat to Kaptai Dam. They conducted the research in an area of 10 meters on both banks. Alongside, water samples from different spots of the river were also tested for pollution. Besides, the causes of the pollution were identified as well.
The survey report said, there are about 50,000 makeshift open toilets on both banks of the river. Apart from this, city waste, liquid and solid factory waste, toxins and waste from dried fish production fields, pesticides, waste from 53 industrial factories, 14 shipyards, markets, drains, farms etc. are the main causes of pollution. Even plastic and polythene has a major role in causing pollution.
It was said in the press conference that various vessels including 85 merchant ships, 405 coaster vessels, 264 fishing trawlers, 9 tug boats, many sampans, small boats, foreign ships and other trawlers use the Karnaphuli river. The waste, burnt oil, etc. from these boats and ships goes directly into the river.
In addition, the natural navigability of the river and the usual movement of aquatic animals including dolphins are being obstructed by the anchoring of innumerous vessels along the river starting from the estuary in the Bay of Bengal to Kalurghat. The team of researchers has identified Shikalbaha area as a habitat for dolphins.
As many as 81 species of endangered plants may go extinct in the future if river encroachment and pollution is not stopped. Besides, there is a risk of further damage to the forestland.
The survey report further mentioned that as a result of various harmful chemicals getting mixed in the river water, people dependent on the river for daily chores are faced with serious health risk.
The research came up with various recommendations including a halt to the disposal of polythene, sewerage, household waste and other materials into the river water.
Alongside taking effective legal measures to prevent encroachment, the research team emphasised preventing construction of illegal structures on both banks of the river too.
Omar Faruque said that measures have to be taken to prevent pollution and encroachment in order to save the river. Plus, steps have to be taken to treat industrial waste alongside domestic waste.
ECHO president Sarwar Alam along with former and current students from botany department of Chittagong University Khandkar Raziur Rahman, Imam Hossain, Sajib Rudra, Md Arif Hossain, Sanatan Chandra Burman, Md Mostakim and Md Ikramul Hasan were also involved in the research.
Professor Sheikh Bakhtiar Uddin of the university’s botany department and associate professor Suman Ganguly of applied chemistry department supported them in the research. Earlier, ECHO conducted a study on the diversity of plant on the CRB hills in Chattogram city last year.