Vanishing rivers deserve effective deal

Flouting the order of the country’s highest court that river grabbing and pollution are criminal offence, grabbing and polluting rivers and water bodies continue to compel all to listening an old story in the country, crisscrossed by innumerable rivers.

Pledges from different levels of the government go in vain as a section of powerful individuals, businesses establishments and institutions are also engaged in grabbing the rivers across the country.

Climate change and different natural and man-made problems continued polluting the country’s rivers and water bodies, compelled many of them to disappear from the map of Bangladesh.

Earlier this year, the apexcourt termedrivers as a‘living being’ and issued 17-point directives to prevent  encroachment and pollution of rivers, considered the lifeblood of the country’s agriculture and environment.

In addition, the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) also identified over 45148 influential, businesses entities and institutions as river grabbers across the country. Names of enlisted river grabbers across the country have already been uploaded to the NRCC website for people as per a court order.

According to a survey by the Department of Environment (DoE), 88 percent of river pollution is caused by waste pollution and illegal land grabbing.

The report also highlighted that after the relocation of the tannery to Savar, 3,500 cubic meters of industrial effluent and 2,700 cubic meters of other contaminated liquid waste are still being discharged into the Burigangariver every day.

In this regard, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury told The Bangladesh Post, that “We are conducting a massive campaign against occupiers. The rivers could not be occupied for power plant, economic zone or any other development project. We are evicting the illegal occupants of the rivers.”

He continued “Apart from this, the industrial factories that have been set up in the riverside areas have to build up-to-date waste treatment plants. Factories that do not have waste management system will be shut down immediately.”

The state minister also stressed that no one will be allowed to do business by polluting and grabbing the rivers.Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) and other concerned authorities are workingobdurately in this regard, he added.

On February this year, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury told parliament that, to increasethe navigability in 10,000 kilometres of river routes through a dredging masterplanin 178 rivers is underway.

A topNRCC official preferring not be named told The Bangladesh Post, “Due to corona we are facing some difficulties but we remain stick to our motto in recovering grabbed land to put the rivers back to their original shape. We are on zero tolerance in this regard, our stance is clear.”

The length of internal river routes of the country is 6,000 kilometres during the monsoon and 4,000 kilometres in the dry season, according shipping ministry sources. About 1,620 km of river routes have totally disappeared as the farmers are now cultivating crops on these lands, he said.

Bangladesh PoribeshAndolon (BAPA) Vice PresidentProfessor KhandakerBazlulHaque told The Bangladesh Post, “Bangladesh is a riverine country; we have to realize the value of a river to nature. Steps are taken but in most of the cases they were not fruitful because of the flexing of muscle power by influential grabbers.”

Awareness is vital to save rivers, but doing it at the national-level will not suffice and it also should be made at zilla and upazila levels, he added.