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Amin Bazar landfill threatens wetlands and farmers, Dhaka, Bangladesh


Description:

In 2005 the city of Dhaka acquired land to construct a landfill in the area of Amin Bazar, located in the northwest of Dhaka. This was highly controversial as the area was marked as flood zone and clearly considered unsuitable for the dumping of waste, but nevertheless the project went ahead.

The Master Plan (MP) of the city has categorized the various areas of the City into 19 Spatial Planning Zones (SPZs) and has identified few areas as flood flow zones in the SPZs. The intent of earmarking certain areas as flood plains and sub flood flow zones is to protect the safety, health and welfare of the common people from negative environmental impacts within waterways and to protect and preserve natural drainage systems to ensure their continued and proper functioning. The MP has prohibited any land development for residential, commercial and industrial purposes in the flood flow zones.

Under the MP, SPZ 17.3 has been identified as a flood flow zone as the same has the flow of the River Turag and its canals. According to the MP the area should be enabled to function properly as flood plain area and a basic rural and pisciculture zone and conversion of land there should be regulated strictly in this zone. Completely deviating from the recommendations of the MP and ignoring the public use and utility of flood flow zones, respondent the Dhaka City Corporation has proposed/undertaken a project titled “Dhaka Mohanogoreer Bibhinno Elakar Obokatthamo o Paribesh Unnayan Prokolpa” (Project for Infrastructure and Environment Development of Different Areas of Dhaka City), to develop a Waste Dumping Depot for the west zone of the City and has identified privately owned agricultural lands within the active flood flow zones of Mouzas Konda and Boliurpur in Amin Bazar, Savar in SPZ 17.3 for the same. The Area selected for the Waste Dumping Depo has two villages namely Konda, Baliarpur within close proximity, where around 55,000 people live and earn their livelihood mostly from activities connected with agriculture and fisheries and who were not consulted during the design of the Project. The Dhaka City Corporation started dumping waste even before final approval for the project was given by the Planning Commission. Using its power of a public agency, the DCC started pushing other agencies for approval and flouting all legal requirements, managed to obtain conditional no objection from the environment agencies.

As waste was being dumped in the marshy lands, the villagers started facing the havoc of air, noise, and water pollution and after exhausting all possible fora for administrative relief, filed legal case against the government agencies for their failure to protect the flood flow zone and denying them their right to life, health, water, livelihood, and profession.

However, the legal battle did so far not lead to any social and environmental justice. The petition filed by the Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (BELA) is since 2010 stuck at the High Court; in the meantime jurisdiction has changed. Although the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) claimed it had compensated farmers for their land, the amounts were considered below market prices.

As of 2019, the DNCC dumped between 2,000 and 3,000 tons of waste daily into the Amin Bazar landfill. After 12 years of dumping, the landfill does still not have an environmental clearance certificate from the Department of Environment (DoE), violating the Environment Conservation Rules, 1997. There has also not been any environmental impact assessment (EIA). Although the site has a leachate treatment plant, the DoE is not monitoring its functioning and the ponds were reported to be full. In 2017 the landfill became further extended and the DNCC is currently requesting an additional 80 acres of land in order to install a waste-to-energy plant. A DoE representative noted that it was awaiting the necessary steps by the DNCC, as required by law, and that the government organization would become more respectful to these. The DNCC in 2020 ensured that the situation at the landfill would improve over the next two years. The mentioned waste-to-energy plant and an associated enclosure of waste are likely to jeopardize the activity of dozens of waste pickers, who currently informally work at the site under precarious conditions and make a living from selling collected recyclable waste (such as bottles, plastics, cans, cardboard, metals, etc.).

As forecasted by BELA, the impacts of over ten years of waste dumping on the villagers of Konda and Baliarpur in Savar have been enormous. Although planned as a sanitary landfill, the conditions have deteriorated over the years so that the site is now de facto functioning as an open dump. The pollution has intoxicated water, air, land, and the local population, and also affected fish, insects, birds, and plants. Waste now piles up for over 30 meters and polythenes and other lightweight plastics regularly spill over to the nearby agricultural areas. Farmers with land in the surrounding area state that the land has become infertile and that not even rice is growing anymore so that some of them have left their homes and work as day laborers. Locals also report about skin diseases. Fish is frequently found dead in the river and garbage is floating on the water and, especially during the rainy season, carried far away. Theses impacts were highlighted at a 2019 inter-ministerial meeting where it was stated that the uncontrolled dumping of waste has caused huge losses in the ecosystem. Also the organization Waste Concern noted that the management of the site is far from meeting the standards of a sanitary landfill and that the damages were irreversible, calling Amin Bazar one of the world’s worst landfill sites.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Amin Bazar landfill threatens wetlands and farmers, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Country:Bangladesh
State or province:Dhaka
Location of conflict:Amin Bazar, Savar
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Incinerators
Specific commodities:Land
Domestic municipal waste
Industrial waste
Recycled Metals
Electricity
Fish
Water
Rice

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The City of Dhaka produces almost 4,500 tonnes of household wastes everyday. The only landfill site that existed in the country till 2006 is the site in Matuail that was funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan Debt Cancellation Fund (JDCF). This site, according to the DCC, was inadequate to deal with all the wastes that the City produced and hence, it entered into an agreement with JICA to develop another land fill in the west side of Dhaka in the moujas (land administrative area) of Konda and Baliarpur in Amin Bazar, Dhaka. This agreement supported the project titled “Dhaka Mohanogoreer Bibhinno Elakar Obokatthamo o Paribesh Unnayan Prokolpa” (Project for Infrustrcture and Environment Development of Different Areas of Dhaka City) the implementation cost of which was 65 crore taka. According to DCC, this land fill will dispose off 1700-1800 tonnes of wastes in a hygienic way, claimed the DCC. Conditional ‘site clearance’ for the Project was given by the DoE on the basis of an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) Report prepared by e private developer named Sheltech Consultants (Pvt.) Limited, that although claimed to have consulted people, could not produce any documents in support. Although Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) signed agreement to do the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the project for obtaining final approval, BUET subsequently declined to do the same on the ground that the area is a flood flow zone. Wastes are being dumped into the site since 2005 without any structural containment facilities as pledged in the Project document. A case in pending against selection of the site as a water dumping site in violation of the MP.

Project area:21.85 hectares
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectaprox 7,738,095 USD
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:aprox 1,387,430
Start of the conflict:17/03/2004
Company names or state enterprises:Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) from Bangladesh
Relevant government actors:Secretaries, Ministry of Land: Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Cooperatives; Ministry of Environment and Forest; Ministry of Housing and Public Works; Mayor, Dhaka City Corporation; Chairman, RAJUK- Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Town Improvement Authority); Director General and Director (Dhaka Division), Department of Environment; Deputy Commissioner, Dhaka; Project Director, Dhaka Mohanogoreer Bibhinno Elakar Obokatthamo o Paribesh Unnayan Prokolpa Project for (Infrastructure and Environment Development of Different Areas of Dhaka City)
International and Finance InstitutionsJapan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) from Japan
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)
www.belabangla.org

Waste Concern

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts, Global warming, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Other Environmental impactsContamination of ground water through leeching
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Infectious diseases, Other Health impacts, Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents
Other Health impactsOdor, breathing difficulty, and presence of foreign elements spreading infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts, Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Other socio-economic impactsThe fact that illegalities of a government project were treated differently was hugely demotivating for local people and even for local ejos

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Proposal and development of alternatives:A petition was filed by a local resident and a national NGO called BELA-Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association. The case challenged the no objection letters, clearances, and authorizations given in favour of the Waste Dumping Depo Project of DCC violating all applicable laws and legal prohibitions. The letter of Rajuk, the Town Improvement Authority dated 22.2.2004, the Site Clearance letter of the Department of Environment dated 6.1.2005 purporting to allow conversion /use of flood flow zone and agriculture lands of Mouza Baliarpur and Konda as Waste Dumping Depot have been challenged. Government has been asked to explain why it shall not be directed to frame appropriate Rules under the Environment Conservation Act and the Dhaka City Corporation Ordinance prescribing the procedure for waste management.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Although there is no injunction at the moment on the implementation of the project and wastes are being dumped regularly at the site, the case is not over yet. The fact that the DCC has failed to manage the site in an environmentally sound manner is now obvious. The devastation of the local ecology and the sufferings of the local people are also clearly manifested. This is giving a hope that the Court may conclude on a positive note.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Constitution of People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995 (Act No. I of 1995) and the Environment Conservation Rules, 1997 made thereunder; Town Improvement Act, 1953; Act No. XXXVI of 2000, the Dhaka City Corporation Ordinance, 1983, and the Master Plan of Dhaka City (2005-2015)
bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Zahur, M., Otoma, S. (2013): Informal Waste Recycling Activities: A Case Study of Dhaka City, Bangladesh. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Japan Society of Material Cycles and Waste Management. Session ID : FA-5.
https://doi.org/10.14912/jsmcwm.24.0_671

Bhadra, S. (2019): Aminbazar's wasteland story. The Business Standard, 07.10.2019.
https://tbsnews.net/environment/aminbazars-wasteland-story

Khan, M. (2018): Where does all our waste end up?. The Daily Star, 08.06.2018. (Online, last accessed: 17.04.2020)
https://www.thedailystar.net/star-weekend/environment/where-does-all-our-waste-end-1587943

Bouldry, T. (2014): Bangla’s Incarnation.
http://www.timothybouldry.com/banglas-incarnation

Devnath, B. (2020): Aminbazar, the landfill that ruined lives. The Business Standard, 11.03.2020.
https://tbsnews.net/environment/aminbazar-landfill-ruined-lives-54643

Al Amin, M. (2019): A landfill in flood flow zone. Dhaka Tribune, 20.08.2019.
https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2019/08/29/a-landfill-in-flood-flow-zone

Other documents

Amin Bazar Savar Amin Bazar Order
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/3729/WP_7465_of_2006_Amin_Bazar_Waste_Dumping_Saver.pdf

Other comments:This posting shall be updated when the matter is finally heard

Meta information

Contributor:Syeda Rizwana Hasan (BELA, [email protected]); Max Stoisser (Update 2020)
Last update27/05/2020
Conflict ID:3729

Images

 

A canal of the Turag river next to the landfill

(Photo credit: Saikat Bhadra)

A fisher in the Amin Bazar landfill area

(Photo credit: Saikat Bhadra)

A waste picker in Amin Bazar in 2017

(Photo credit: Ananya Rubayet)

 

Waste spillovers affect agriculture in the surroundings of the 30 meter high garbage mountain

(Photo credit: Saikat Bhadra)

Scavenging through arriving waste at Amin Bazar

(Photo credit: Timothy Bouldry)

Waster water landscape

(Photo credit: Timothy Bouldry)

Paddy fields next to the dumpsite

(Photo credit: Saikat Bhadra)