Toxic industrial seepage, water-logging threaten field trials
Research activities at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute have been threatened by intrusion of industrial waste water and possible spill-over of toxicity in the soil of the institute’s immediate vicinity.
If the seepage of toxic industrial wastes continues, the institute may need to be relocated soon from the industrial belt of Gazipur to an area free from pollution for the sake of undisturbed research activities, say researchers.
A daily sun investigation finds that a major portion of the 45-hectre research field of the institute has already turned into a dumping ground of polluted water coming from outside, affecting the trial of breeder seeds.
Four drains that entered through western and south-western part of the institute and once disappeared into a canal in the institute’s northeast side under Gazipur municipality have also been blocked, researchers say assigning the reasons of water-logging on the institute premises.
“Black water containing industrial wastes is pouring in the research field through one of the drains and the research activities are being hampered,” Director (research) of the institute Md Khairul Bashar said on Tuesday.
Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, the key component of national agricultural research system, is located on 76.82 hectares of land. It has so far developed 58 varieties of rice that dominate more than 80 percent of Boro rice, official records show. The research director cautioned that unless ‘this national research institute’ is protected from any kind of pollution, the overall research output will be affected.
The institute’s researchers said the issues of intrusion of polluted water and toxicity in the soil in nearby areas like Jogitola in the south came for discussion at a recent meeting of the institute. The researchers expressed serious concern at the situation.
“We have noticed for the past 6-7 months that black water is coming in from the west and being dumped into the field. The stagnant water seeps further,” said a junior researcher, who has no authority to talk to the press.
There are three dyeing factories just outside the western wall of the institute and four more factories are located within one kilometre area, said witnesses. About a dozen industrial units are there in front (in the north) of the institute.
The institute authorities earlier drew the attention of municipality to stop the drains but the latter said they were not in a position to take any initiative unless the government sanctions money through a project.
Jiban Krishna Biswas, a chief scientific officer at the institute, pointed out that they are yet to be sure about the effects of air pollution, especially excessive presence of sulphur and heavy metal, on the rice in the trial fields.
“Farmers in the surrounding areas recently found some problems, which we think are effects of toxicity in the soil. The growing urbanisation alongside unplanned industrialisation has posed serious threats to proper research activities,” he said explaining the issue.
The rice research institute was founded in Agargaon area close to Khamarbari (meaning farmhouse) in Dhaka city in 1906. It was shifted to its present location in 1970 after running temporary activities in Savar.
Rafiqul Islam, another chief scientific officer, has collected samples of various industrial wastes and made experiments to examine their effects on rice yields. “The plants die in some cases and others do not give proper yields,” he said but could not confirm if it would cause food contamination.
Asked about the remedial measures, the research director said the government’s agriculture, environment and industries ministries should come up with joint initiative to protect the national research institute.
Courtesy of Daily Sun