Impact of River Pollution on Local People: A Survey on Turag River Area, Tongi.



(RN), BSc in nursing,


BIRDEM Academy.

MPhil (1st Part),



At first, I would like to acknowledge the great almighty God for his all-time grace and mercy on me.
I am extremely grateful to Professor Dr. Mahbuba Nasreen, honorable Director of Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies, University of Dhaka for making this opportunity happen along with all her important comments and direction.

I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the immense support of our coordinator Shamima Prodhan, Lecturer, Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies, University of Dhaka whose hearted and invaluable support with best concern and dedication worked as the necessary resource for me to carry out my diploma program and hence complete this report.
Finally, my heartiest felicitation goes to my family, classmates and all of my team members whose support, love and care helped me to complete this diploma program & report writing.

I am immensely indebted to all of them for all the inspiration and support.

Bangladesh is a riverine country which is low lying, flood plain and delta land created through alluvial deposits of Ganges and Brahmaputra. It consists of a unique hydro-meteorological system and is surrounded by mountains. River pollution has become a major problem in Bangladesh nowadays. Day by day it is becoming more critical because of the lacking in implementation of laws, water resources management plan and policies regarding the industrial discharge of waste water and disposal of solid wastes directly to the river. Moreover, the discharge of raw sewage, as well as oil spills which causing pollution in rivers. As a result the water is not suitable for use/instant use.
Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh where among the environmental issues, river pollution has been one of the main subject. This survey was carried to find out the condition of the pollution in Turag River and the impact of this pollution on the local community. It was clear that the water quality of Turag River is not in a favorable condition for the water born species or organisms nor suitable for domestic uses too, after the survey. The survey also provides information that local people goes through various kinds of diseases such as skin, diarrhea, dysentery, respiratory illnesses, anemia and complications in childbirth, yellow fever, cholera, dengue, malaria etc. Moreover, the community people use to suffer the odor pollution and respiratory problems as well.
Qualitative method was used here for analysis of information. Some participatory rural appraisal tools (like – KII, observation, journal, publications) have been used to conduct this survey. The outcomes gained from the observations were presented in the result and discussion part of this report. Many crucial findings have detected in the survey area. As the study area is highly prone to river pollution. The further recommendations with concluding remarks are also given in the final chapter of this report.

Keywords: Impact; Pollution; Turag River; Diseases; Survey.

“No life without water” is a common saying, as water is the essential requirement of all life supporting activities. From different sources water can be obtained such as wells, ponds rivers, lakes etc. but unfortunately, clean, pure and safe water exists only briefly in nature and is immediately polluted by existing environmental factors and human activities and hence water from most sources is unsuitable for consumption and other purposes without some sort of treatment [1].
The uses of water in a community are many, and the requirement in quantity and quality are varied. The uses of water include domestic use, public purposes, industrial purposes, agriculture purposes etc.
Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh. The economy of Bangladesh is mostly depending on it. Dhaka city is surrounded by a number of rivers and canals of which Turag, Buriganga, Dhaleshwari, Balu and Shitalakhya are the important ones. For this reason, a large number of industries are established in Dhaka City. Tongi is one the largest industrial zones of Dhaka. Tongi is primarily known and developed as industrial zone according to the Master Plan of 1959. Industrial purpose is one kind of dominating land use in Tongi area. Various categories of industries include metal industries, garments, jute, textile; spinning, pharmaceutical, food manufacturing industry etc. are in Tongi area. This zone is situated near the river Turag. Industries which produce hazardous waste must need ETP (Effluent Treatment Plant). But most of the industries in Tongi don’t have waste management facility like ETP. These industries dispose waste water (i.e. effluent) without proper treatment.
Turag is an important river. The Turag River is an upper tributary of the Buriganga River and originates from the Bangshi River that flows through Gazipur and joins with the Buriganga River at Mirpur, Dhaka. The catchment area of the Turag is located in the southern part of Modhupur, which covers 999.74 km2. [2]
Turag is one of the most important rivers in Dhaka city. The water of Turag is used in different purpose like drinking, bathing, washing, navigation, agriculture, irrigation etc. But now Tungi River faces many problems due to industrial effluent. At the same time people who live in the surrounding environment also face many problem or health problem such as skin disease, diarrhea, cough and cold, fever, gastric ulcer and chronic disease etc. So it is necessary to take immediate steps to prevent the Turag River from pollution and to protect the environment, human fishes and aquatic lives.

The Turag River is the upper tributary of the Buriganga, a major river in Bangladesh. The most pollution sources of Turag river water are various consumer goods industries (soap and detergent), garments industries, pharmaceuticals industries, lots of tanneries, dyeing industries, aluminum industries, battery manufacturing, match industries, ink manufacturing industries, textile, paint, iron industries, pulp and paper factories, chemical factories, frozen food factories and Steel workshop etc. Most of the industries discharge their effluents directly or indirectly into the Turag River without any treatment causing pollution of the surface water. Moreover, many sewerage and municipal sewage drainage system have become a dumping ground of all kinds of solid, liquid and chemical waste that polluted the river bank.
Consequently, complex mixture of hazardous chemicals, both organic and inorganic are released into Turag river water resulting in different chemical and bio-chemical interactions in the river system and thus deteriorate the water quality. For this reason water causes the adverse effect of surrounding land and aquatic ecosystem as well as subsequent impact on the livelihood of the local community. [3]
Now a day most of the rivers around the main cities of Bangladesh are polluted because of receiving huge amount of partially treated and untreated sewage effluent, sewage polluted surface run-off and untreated industrial effluent from nearby residential and industrial areas. Untreated & partially treated effluent causes environmental pollution as well as health hazards. Rivers also get polluted by this untreated effluent. Polluted water is unsafe for both humans and animals. The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) is solely responsible to maintain environmental flow in the rivers.
So as to assess the impact of river pollution on local people in their day to day life & to create awareness among people about the adverse effect of river pollution, the survey was conducted.

⦁ Objectives of the study:

Dhaka city is surrounded by a number of rivers and canals of which Turag, Buriganga, Dhaleshwari, Balu and Shitalakhya are the important ones. Because of the lack of the water resources management plan and policies, both the quality and quantity of water in these rivers have reached a very critical situation that does not allow its instant use. The rivers Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag, and Balu have been so extremely polluted that these have turned into the rivers of poison. The poisonous waters of these rivers have not only been killing all its aquatic life but also been posing health hazards to the dwellers of the city. These rivers receive partially treated and untreated sewage effluent, sewage polluted surface run-off and untreated industrial effluent from nearby residential and industrial areas. Sources of pollution of the water in these rivers also include various industrial discharge, domestic waste; indiscriminate throwing of pathological and commercial wastes, etc. Because of this, water quality of these rivers is deteriorating day by day. River pollution has been one of the main topics in the environmental issue of urban Dhaka. The rivers surrounding the capital city, including the Turag have been steadily experiencing complicated problems like pollution and encroachment that have almost suffocated these valuable lifelines of the city. The water quality of Turag River may not be in a position to sustain the aquatic life as well as not suitable for using for domestic purpose too. [4]

However, the specific objectives of the survey were as follows:
⦁ To conduct a direct interview with local peoples of Turag river area
⦁ To observe the local people’s activities and exposure to the river water
⦁ To get the information regarding causes of the water quality deterioration and the impact of it on them.



Dhaka, the capital and most populated city in Bangladesh is now a member of mega city family in the world. Rapid and unplanned urbanization, commercial development along with population pressure have made an environmentally polluted city in the world. [5, 6]
Urbanization is the major demographic development which is occurring very fast and with larger magnitude in the developing countries. Its transforms the existing landscape without considering the possible consequences and requirements for environmental sustainability. [7]
Urbanization and Industrialization near the river bank has created pollution problem. Modern civilization is dependent on large-scale use of a wide range of metals and most of them are naturally present only at trace levels in the hydrosphere (biosphere). [8]
Industry is a small user of water in terms of quantity but has a significant impact on quality. Over three fourth of fresh water draw by the domestic and industrial sector, return as domestic sewage and industrial effluents which inevitably end up in surface water bodies or in the ground water, affecting water quality [9].
In September 2009, the DoE (Dept. of Environment) declared the Turag River to be in an ecologically critical condition based on the heavy pollution discharged by the industries in the area. The Turag represents an important feature of the Dhaka City lifestyle because of the abundance of fish. Unfortunately, the uncontrolled dumping of industrial waste from the industries located along the banks of the river has greatly increased the river water pollution to a very dangerous level. The majority of the industries have made little effort to follow environmental law, and the water has become visibly discolored. [10]
According to an industrial survey conducted by Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies (BCAS) in 2009, only about 40% industries have ETPs. In 10% industries, ETPs are under construction and about 50% industries have no ETP establishment. That is, more than 50% of waste generated by the industries eventually goes to the rivers untreated.
The same type of study was conducted by Islam et al., 2012 to investigate the effects of solid waste and industrial effluents on the water quality of Turag River. Results of the study showed that the color of water was light to dark black and emitted noxious smell due to the industrial effluents. The upstream water was slightly alkaline with comparatively high DO content while low concentration of other parameters. The continuous dumping of waste materials resulted in a marked increase in the concentration of metals in the river water varied in the order of Fe > Zn > Pb > Cu > Cd. They found that the downstream water in the river was almost polluted and unsuitable for human consumption and aquaculture purposes [11].
Nizel & Islam was conducted a study to find out the pollution situation of Turag river and the health problem of the surrounding residents. They found that the water quality of Turag river may not be in a position to sustain the aquatic life and not suitable for using domestic purpose. This is indicated by the very low dissolved oxygen (DO) levels and other measured parameters in the river. The maximum concentration of turbidity, BOD, hardness, TDS, and COD found in the Turag River is much higher than the standard permissible limit. They also provide evidence that local communities are suffering from a variety of health problems including skin, diarrhea, dysentery, respiratory illnesses, anemia and complications in childbirth. Yellow fever, cholera, dengue, malaria and other epidemic diseases are also available in this area. Furthermore, the people are suffering by the odor pollution and respiratory problems [12].
Previous study shows that physiochemical properties & heavy metal of Turag River are much higher than the standard value & local communities are suffering from a variety of health problems including skin, diarrhea, dysentery, respiratory illnesses, anemia and complications in childbirth. Furthermore, the people are suffering by the odor pollution and respiratory problems. Necessary steps should be taken to mitigate this pollution.

3.1 Flow of the work:
Step 1: Literature review from secondary sources.
Step 2: Checklist development and finalization
Step 3: Field Visit.
Step 4: Primary data collection.
Step 5: Findings and discussion.
Step 6: Recommendations given according to findings.
3.2 Survey Area:
For this survey Turag River area, Tongi Bridge was chosen.
⦁ List of survey respondents:

5 People/ Interviewer


Local Residents



Livelihood:-Rickshaw puller, Shopkeeper, Sweeper, FishTrader, Housewife.
Residents of the study area were the study population. As the population is huge and time was short, simple random sampling was used to select samples. For the information I have interviewed 5 people from the community.

3.4 Data Collection Tools:
This survey has been conducted using qualitative method. For qualitative method, primary and secondary tools are used for data collection. At first participatory primary tools and secondary data reviews are done for collecting necessary data for assessing the present condition of pollution in Tongi, Turag River and its impact on local people. An open ended questionnaire and semi-structured questions was followed for conducting interviews. The data collection tools which are used for this survey were –
1. Observation-Transect Walk: It is a systematic walk along a defined path (transect) across the community/project area together with the local people to explore the conditions.
2. Key Informants Interview (KII): It involves interviewing people who have particularly informed perspectives on an aspect of the program evaluated.
3. Other secondary sources etc.


3.5 Survey Population and Sampling:
Residents of the survey area were the study population. As the population was the small but enough time was short as it was crowed too. So, simple random samplings were used to select samples.
For KII I had interviewed 2 people and other was interviewed randomly.
3.6 Ethical Issues:
⦁ Approval from Ethical Review Committee of was Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies, University of Dhaka were taken.
⦁ Verbal Informed consent was obtained from each respondent before the interview.
⦁ Confidentiality & privacy of the respondent were maintained.
⦁ Respondents had the right to refuse from the survey at any time during the interview.
⦁ Findings from the field
Identification of major hazards from the study area:
⦁ Flash Flood/ Water Logging
⦁ Waste Disposal
⦁ 24 hrs Traffic Congestion on Tongi bridge which crate huge sound pollution
⦁ Breakdown of Critical Infrastructure/Lifelines:
⦁ Gas Line
⦁ Water Line
⦁ Electricity
⦁ Transport
⦁ Communication

Table1: Personal information of the respondents (** Each person was asked 17 questions).
Name Kibria Alam Monira Begum Pronob Das Alauddin Konika Khatun
Sex Male Female Male Male Female
Age 45 30 70 55 62
Occupation Rickshaw puller Shopkeeper Sweeper Fish Trader Housewife
Family Members 2 3 4 4 5
Years of living in the area 25 30 60 55 30

After the observation from survey it was found that; The former name of Turag River was KOHOR DORIA. Most of the people living in this area have very poor economic condition. So the people live in both the upper land and lower land near to the river. Moreover, some people were found living in the boat also. But the people live in the lower land are more exposed to the river and their contact with the river increases with day time.

Figure 1.1. People living in the upper land.

Figure 1.2. People living in the lower land and in boats.
People living in lower land who are very near to the river are more likely to use the this river water for washing their utensils, cloths, sometimes their livestock also. It was found that many years ago the condition of the water was favorable for using it in drinking purposes as well. Now the pollution has increased to such an extent that the people who live in the upper area they do not use it for any purposes.

Figure- Local people are washing their utensil, clothes through the river water
Mostly people living in upper land have the supply water for drinking & domestic use & good facilities for toileting. Therefore, they have to pay a very little amount for the supply water in each month, which is 150 BDT. The initiative of bringing supply water to the local community was arranged by the local ward councilor. They use it for their domestic works and for any other purposes. Though there are availability of supply water but people living in lower land cannot afford the cost of the supply water. However who can afford they have to go through hardship as the water is limited as well as they have to stand in a long queue to collect the water. So, as a result, the people living in the lower land are more supposed to use the river water.

Figure3.1. Supply Water source, storage and toilet for people living in upper area

Figure3.2. Supply water facility for people living in lower area.

Figure3.3. The local people living in lower land they set toilets above the river as they do not have any proper place for defecation. The excrement directly falls into the river water. There is no proper arrangement for managing this excrement. As a result they are constrained to this type of hanging toilets above the river.

Figure- Disposal of solid wastes into the river
The people livng in the upper land they have the facilities of solar electricity

Figure: Projects of Solar Panel in upper land area
It is alarming that the pollution concentration is speedily escalating day by day as different types of industries and land uses are developing along the banks of the Turag River which lead to more pollution generation and more encroachment on river bank. At the same time, it is a matter of fortune that the pollution level of the Turag has not yet gone beyond treatability and the river has not experienced the massive grasp of encroachment like the Buriganga. Therefore, recovery process of the river must start immediately. The pollution level of the river is increasing sharply and can cause serious problem in near future. Although, some parameters may not at critical pollution level but the condition of the river side urbanization and industrialization with no proper waste treatment may cause severe water pollution.
The survey gave a result that the people living in lower land are poorer than the people residing in upper land. In addition they are more exposed to the polluted water and have more tendencies to use the water. Moreover they do not have any proper place for defecation whereas compare to the people living in upper land have the good toilet facilities, water & electricity with solar facilities & many more. The survey also provides information that water quality of Turag River is not in a good condition for the water born species or organisms nor even for any domestic uses too (like for- drinking, washing dishes/clothes, bathing, toileting etc).
Routine research work with wide public awareness, government participation and government regulations can save the water of Turag River and thus safe and sound water environment can be attained in future.
The pollution of Turag water reached critical point with increasing tendency day by day. Consequently, in order to decrease pollution from various sources appropriate steps must be taken immediately. Various efforts should be initiated in this regard which is as follows:
1. Existing laws and regulations should be implemented properly; enforcement should be adopted if required.
2. Illegal residential buildings and slums have to be removed from the bank of the river.
3. Industries, which have built up on the bank of the river illegally have to be regulated.
4. To continue the flow of the river, dredging is required.
5. To control the pollution from industrial discharge, establishment and efficient operation of Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) is necessary.
6. A lot of untreated industrial effluents and household wastes are falling into the river which is also polluting the water. To get rid of this pollution proper treatment should be taken by the authority so that it does not pollute the river.
7. ETPs (Effluents Treatment plants) should be more effective.
8. To avoid any kinds of pollution, consciousness is the best policy, so public awareness is necessary.
9. Government agencies like (DOE, WDB, and DWASA etc.) and Non-Government agencies should be more active to reduce the pollution of the Turag.
10. From previous study report, it was seen that 90-94% pollution of Turag River is coming from industries and solid wastes. So, Keen observation is required for the industries and solid wastes generation.

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12. Nizel, J. & Islam, N. (2015). “Water Pollution & Its Industrial Impact on Human Health”. Journal of Environment & Human. DOI: 10.15764/EH. 2015.010005.

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