Businesses affect the environment through the extraction and utilization of environmental resources, and through pollution that is released through these processes. Industrialization, which is closely related to business, is responsible for most kinds of global pollution. Countries facing sudden and rapid growth of such industries are finding it to be a serious problem. Industrial pollution contaminates many sources of drinking water, releases unwanted toxins into the air and reduces the quality of soil.
In 2015, diseases caused by air, water and soil pollution were responsible for 9 million premature deaths, which is 16% of total global death. Exposures to contaminated air, water and soil kill more people than hunger, natural disasters, war, AIDS, or malaria. According to Lancet medical journal (world’s oldest and best known general medical journal), the global financial costs of pollution are huge, totaling “$4.6 trillion per year—6.2% of global economic output.
Industry is a major cause of air pollution, since the operation of factories results in the emission of pollutants, including organic solvents, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides. These pollutants can both harm public health and damage the environment by contributing to global phenomena such as climate change, the greenhouse effect, ozone hole and increasing desertification.
Greenhouse gas emission is a major concern, which is increasing average surface temperature of the earth. Consequently, a part of the earth may be flooded in near future by increased level of sea water and another part may face terrible heat wave or draught. Unfortunately, just 100 companies around the world have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé were identified as the world’s biggest producers of plastic trash in global cleanups and brand audits. This study shows, how these companies worsen the global plastic pollution crisis. The three companies have each promised to cut their packaging waste and recycle their plastic waste. But still they are largely contributing to enhance plastic pollution!
Environmental inspectors in northern China have found that nearly 14,000 companies, or 70 percent of the businesses they examined, failed to meet environmental standards for controlling air pollution. Even though Chinese leaders have vowed to crack down on polluters, the factories continue to contribute to severe levels of air, water and soil pollution. Chinese citizens cite the country’s widespread pollution as one of the issues of greatest concern to them.
Uncontrolled conventional tourism poses potential threats to many natural areas. Increased construction of tourism and recreational facilities has increased the pressure on these resources and on scenic landscapes. Forests often suffer negative impacts of tourism in the form of deforestation caused by fuel wood collection and land clearing.
Bangladesh is one of the countries that are most affected by pollution and environmental risks. Every year Bangladesh loses about $6.5 billion, which is about 3.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 2015, due to pollution and environmental degradation in urban areas, says a new World Bank report. This report revealed the cost is $1.44 billion in Dhaka alone, which is 0.72% of the national GDP. Moreover, it also caused about 80,000 deaths in cities. Needless to say, business and industries contribute mostly to make this worst situation.
It is a matter of utmost concern that many industrial units in the country keep releasing toxic gas and chemicals into the environment, to the peril of human health, crops and aquatic resources. Ironically, the owners of these industrial units contribute significantly to the growth of the economy and generation of employment opportunities. But they prefer to remain indifferent to the vital issue of environment pollution and the resultant damage to eco-system.
Bangladesh is still at its initial phase of industrialization. But it does not mean that the risk of air pollution is less here. A large number of industries in Bangladesh are not located in proper places. Many hazardous and polluting industries are located near residential areas. The air adjacent to a factory is usually contaminated by the poisonous gases and dust which emit from the industrial units. Among all the industries, jute mills are the worst. One per cent of all raw materials used in the jute mills is thrown into the air as dust and waste. Workers of jute mills suffer from respiratory problems due to their long hours of exposure to polluted air.
It is mainly industrial pollution which left the rivers of Dhaka city biologically dead, as 60 percent of the total effluents dumped in the rivers are industrial wastes while the rest are household wastes. Pollution of the City Rivers has reached such a level that the ground water system is also being contaminated. Although the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act (ECA) clearly prohibits pollution of rivers, and makes it mandatory to set up Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP) for certain categories of industries, but no success has been seen yet. According to the Department of Environment (DoE) statistics, there are around 7,000 industries in and around the capital, around 200 of which have ETPs, but many of them do not use the plants in order to maximize profit by cutting the cost of running those. The pollution that has set in the rivers Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitalakkhya has made it almost impossible to treat their water.
In Bangladesh the rapid development of ship breaking and recycling industries has a significant impact on both human and environment but it is economically important too. Since last two decades ship-recycling industry in Bangladesh has received considerable attention via providing raw materials to steel industry, ship-building industry and some other industries. Unfortunately, the ship-recycling industry has also gained the attention because of many fatal accidents causing human deaths. This industry affects the environment in some seriously harmful ways. Due to ship-breaking, harmful substances like Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP’s), asbestos, heavy metals become wide open in the environment which is a threat to the inhabitants.
The country produces 25 billion bricks every year. In order to meet this demand, this requires excavating 60 million tonnes of topsoil, causing dust pollution and degrading the ground. Brick kilns also consume 5 million tonnes of coal and 3 million tonnes of wood annually, in the process emitting 15 million tonnes of carbon into the air.
There were about 185 tannery industries in Hazaribagh, which are recently shifted to savar Tannery Industrial Park. Every day, the tanneries collectively dumped 22,000 cubic litre of toxic wastes including cancer causing hexavalent chromium into Buriganga. This industrial cluster is affecting 160,000 inhabitants, 12000 workers and has virtually killed the Buriganga.
In this situation, production practices of the businesses should be revised. This can reduce all kind of pollution in a great extent. Both large and small companies can prevent pollution through operational or technical changes. The techniques can be like:
1. Good housekeeping – Housekeeping and inventory controls are some of the easiest hazardous waste reduction alternatives to implement, as well as the least expensive;
2. Materials substitution – Alternative materials for cleaning, coating, lubrication, and other processes can prevent costly hazardous waste generation;
3. Manufacturing modifications – Rethinking day-to-day operations and maintenance activities can help root out wasteful practices that drive up costs and cause pollution.
4. Resource recovery – Wherever possible, reuse materials to reduce toxic waste production;
Shifting from managing to preventing pollution can be good for the environment. Companies are realizing that pollution is a symptom of inefficiency, and that waste is often valuable raw material. The growing costs of waste disposal and remediation make a compelling case for improvement this situation.
The writer is pursuing BBA at University of Dhaka.