Prothom Alo illustration

Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC) has set up Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP) in state owned sugar mills which had already been shut. The authorities say the equipment of ETPs were procured beforehand.

According to Prothom Alo news, ETP is needed to treat the residues generated from sugarcane after sugar is processed. BSFIC has set up ETPs in three mills that are already shut, spending Tk 200 million. Why was so much money spent in setting up ETPs in now defunct mills?

ETPs were set up at Setabganj Sugar Mills Limited in Dinajpur at a cost of Tk 80 million, Panchagarh Sugar Mills Limited spending around Tk 60 million and Rangpur Sugar Mills in Gaibandha’s Gobindaganj at around Tk 60.08 million. The ETPs were set up in 2022.

The projects to set up ETPs in three other shut sugar mills were suspended only after procuring equipment and partial completion of construction works. These three mills are Pabna Sugar Mills Limited, Shyampur Sugar Mills Limited in Rangpur and Kushtia Sugar Mills. Of these three, the project at Pabna Sugar Mills was scrapped after completion of 40 per cent of work of infrastructure building.

Contractor was paid Tk 19.3 million for building the infrastructure. Also, the equipment procured for ETP in Pabna Sugar Mills are still lying in the warehouse. The mill authorities, however, do not have any account on how much money was spent in procuring the equipment.

Sources said the project to set up ETPs in 14 sugar mills at Tk 850.1 million was taken in July 2018. Six of these 14 sugar mills were shut in December 2020. ETP was set up fully in three of these sugar mills and partially in three others.

What is the rationale behind setting up ETPs where the sugar mills don’t even function? The rationale given by the BSFIC chairman Arifur Rahman does not hold water. The corporation took both the decisions to procure the equipment of ETPs and shut the mills. ETPs would be of no use if the mills are not reopened. Moreover, the government will have to pay the salary of staff involved with maintenance of these ETPS. Why would public funds be spent due to the mistake of the corporation?

The machineries of these ETPs would wear off if left unused for years. So the authorities should either reopen the shut sugar mills or transfer the ETPs to other industries.

The sugar mills were shut at the pretext of loss. Why should not the mills be reopened while sugar is being imported at a higher price? 24 imminent citizens expressed concern over the incident and demanded investigation. We also think the incident of setting up ETPs at closed mills should be investigated freely and impartially.