Written by Md. Abu Naim Hossain
On June 4, 2022, Saturday at 10 pm, One of the most dangerous explosions ever in the history of Bangladesh happened at the BM container depot, Sitakundu, Chattogram, Bangladesh. The people of Chattogram witnessed one of the most tragic nights in the history of Bangladesh. According to local and international media reports, 49 people have lost their lives (including nine firefighters), and more than 450 people were seriously injured. The explosion destroyed the whole depot and reduced shockwaves nearby a 30 km area surrounding. The firefighters succeed in controlling the fire spreading after 89 hours of the blast, according to
It has taken many lives and severely damaged the local environment and atmosphere. In this article, the author explores significant insights into the direct and indirect effects of the explosion on the atmosphere and the whole environment.
Insights on ‘Why Did the Explosion Happened?’
Locals assumed that the explosion happened to 850 tons of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) stored for ten days at a scorching temperature. “Though it is not an explosive chemical type, it can cause a heavy explosion when it comes in contact with fire or got a temperature.” Said Professor Mahbub Ul Matin, Lecturer at the Department of Chemistry, CU. These chemicals were stored for an Al Razi Chemical Complex chemical industry situated on one no. ward, Chattogram City Corporation. This Industry has severe problems related to environmental pollution.
1- In 2019, the Environmental Department fined them Tk 640,000 for cutting down the hills indiscriminately, unethically, and illegally for establishing their factory.
2-Their wastes directly go to the only tidal river in the world, ‘Halda,’ which destroys the river’s biodiversity. This point is crucial to notice, Bangladesh’s almost 90% of farming fishes’ (Salmon, Carp, Silver carp, Carpio) carps come from the river Halda. The river’s water pollution diminishes those fish’s breeding power daily. Furthermore, in 2017, 34 dead dolphins were found in this river. We can say that it also impacts the chemical complex’s Industrial waste. It is also making the river water poisonous and creating a shortage of drinking water.
3- The Environmental Department gives their Hydrogen Peroxide production limit as 1 thousand tons per year. But according to Chittagong Customs Commissioner MD. Fakhrul Islams’s Say, about 10 thousand and 662 tons of Hydrogen Peroxide were exported through Chittagong port by Al Razi Chemical Complex in the last two years. It means more than 5 thousand tons are only exported, but it is unknown how much Hydrogen Peroxide is produced.
4- Their production approval was issued on February 7, 2021, by the Environmental Department, and the approval expired on February 7, 2022, and was not renewed due to some fatal issues.
It is imaginable how harmful the factory is when critical institutions like the University of Chittagong and its halls, IIUC, and Chittagong Cantonment are within the vulnerable area of this factory, which is a frightening matter for 2 lacks people around the Industry.
5-According to the Dangerous Cargo Act-1953, shipping companies, ports, and container depots should store and ship chemicals like hydrogen peroxide from other goods. Besides, there should be multiple caution signs. But the chemical-containing containers were along with all other containers containing food, garments, etc., which apparent negligence of the Depot authority. That takes lots of lives and causes heavy environmental damage.
Environmental Impact of the Blast
1-Expert physicians and environmentalists say this area of Sitakundu could seriously threaten nature, the environment, and public health. It can be short-term or long-term. In this case, if there is heavy rain, air pollution will be reduced, and the environment will be somewhat expected. However, water mixed with chemicals can enter the canals and rivers, causing pollution. All in all, it will undoubtedly hurt public health. They also say that the Environmental Department can measure the number of chemical elements in the air of Sitakundu. If the level of ppm (parts per million) in that area’s air is high, it will have a long-term effect.
2-The people living around the depot complained of feeling abnormally high temperatures. Besides, the air of the 2.7 km area was very much polluted, and it caused several health issues for the people living there.
3-Local media reported residents in surrounding villages had been suffering from eyes and skin burning, pain in throats, itching, sneezing, and coughing since the explosions. According to a Facebook post of Adv. Musab Uddin Bakhtiar, a leading person in a voluntary organization named Gausia committee Bangladesh was working on the tragedy to bring the dead bodies and stuck injured persons out and carrying them to hospitals; more than 20 of their volunteers were affected by several health-related problems for entering the depot after the explosion.
4-After the explosion, firefighters, Armed Forces, and the volunteers working on the depot were facing a problem with taking breaths to cause the explosion spread toxic fumes everywhere. They couldn’t keep their eyes open for a long time for the chemical mixed with the air.
5-People stationed outside the depot said in light of the incident, the amount of water sprayed when the fire broke out on Saturday night and a series of explosions, and most of the toxic chemicals went into the canal or the sea. They added that in addition to mixing with water, the amount of toxic chemicals mixed in the air with the explosion is also a significant threat to us. We are very concerned about the environment here.
It is easily conceived that the immediate effect of the BM Depot explosion has many long-term effects. The adverse effects on the environment are notable—the Professor of the Department of Geography and Environment, University of Dhaka, Md. Humayun Kabir said various types of chemicals had exploded at the accident site. These will cause significant damage to the local people and the surrounding environment, which will have a permanent negative impact. He said that many chemical elements would remain in the soil even after the rescue operation was completed. Many elements will go into the sea next to it and harm biodiversity.
In this way, it will cause significant damage to people, the environment, and the surroundings. So now we have to think about how this loss can be reduced to the lowest position and take necessary and practical steps to prevent such kinds of accidents in the future.
- Bangladesh: Deadly fire and explosions at container facility. (2022, June 5). Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/6/5/16-killed-170-injured-in-bangladesh-container-depot-fire
- Environmental disaster feared following Sitakunda depot fire. (2022, June 13). Dhaka Tribune. Available at https://www.dhakatribune.com/chittagong/2022/06/13/environmental-disaster-feared-following-sitakunda-depot-fire?
- Environmental disaster feared following Sitakunda depot fire. (2022b, June 14). Prothom Alo. Available athttps://en.prothomalo.com/environment/pollution/environmental-disaster-feared-following-sitakunda-depot-fire?
- Environmental disaster feared following Sitakunda depot fire. (2022c, June 14). The Daily Sun. Available at https://www.daily-sun.com/post/626329/Environmental-disaster-feared-following-Sitakunda-depot-fire?
- Fire tears through Bangladesh container depot, killing 49 and injuring hundreds. (2022, June 5). CNN. Available at https://edition.cnn.com/2022/06/05/asia/bangladesh-sitakunda-container-depot-fire-intl/index.html