Most of the rivers of the country including Dhaka are now disappearing due to pollution. Especially around Dhaka, the aggressive hand of the occupiers is going on everywhere in Shitalakshya, Turag and Buriganga. We get similar news from almost all districts and Upazilas outside Dhaka in the media. But the biggest news is that government institutions are ahead in the competition for possession. Of the 67 major pollutants in the Buriganga, 56 are under Dhaka WASA and BSCIC, a few city corporations, are not far behind the private industries in terms of pollution of Turag, Balu and Shitalakshya. Not only in Dhaka, but all over the country, the river is tired and ruined today due to belligerent aggression. The amount of occupation becomes clear when you look at the banks of any river.
The situation has reached such a stage that the existence of many rivers is now under threat. Many rivers can no longer be found in reality. Of the 405 rivers in the country, 165 are on the verge of extinction in the last four decades due to encroachment and pollution. The remaining 230 are also at risk. 24,000 kilometers of waterways have been reduced to about 6,000 kilometers. Agriculture, communications, the environment, biodiversity, and human livelihoods are all under threat. The need to protect rivers and reservoirs cannot be overstated. Environmental groups and human rights groups are being talked about by officials at various levels of government, from the very top. But nothing is happening at work. Many people feel that there is a lack of determination and goodwill on the part of those concerned about the occupiers and polluters.
At various times the government has been conducting evictions of illegal establishments, but it has stopped again before some of them have gone away. Rivers must be protected by putting the national interest above the interests of all kinds of individuals and groups. There are policies and laws to protect the river. These policies and laws must be implemented. As well as water management needs to be done properly. The river should be allowed to flow normally.
If the environment survives, the country will survive, if the country survives, we will survive. The environment is being polluted due to our unconsciousness. The living space is decreased. So each of us must strive to fulfill our responsibilities. Everyone must come forward from their respective positions to protect the environment. If everyone is not aware, there will not be much success in law enforcement alone. The existence of a beautiful world cannot be imagined without considering the environment. The relationship between environment and development is not contradictory. The environment has a close relationship with development. If the country is not developed by protecting the environment, it will not be sustainable. For this, not only the government or various organizations should work, but every person in the society should work from their position. Economic development must be made possible by saving the environment.
Environmentalists around the world are fighting for the protection of rivers. What is the only reason for the important connection of water and river with the environment! Or is it because of the infinite importance of the river in their livelihood that people are united and constantly struggling to protect it? Due to various reasons, the main rivers of our country are losing their features day by day. Everything is failing to balance the environment. But to overcome this situation, everyone has to work from their place to save the environment and bring the river back to normal.
Dhaka’s Hazaribagh, Tejgaon and Dhaka-Narayanganj-Demra river protection dams have been built around 7,000 small and large factories. The industrial waste of these industries is falling directly into the river Buriganga. From Buriganga this industrial waste is going to Turag, Tongi canal, Balu, Shitalakshya and Dhaleshwari. Apart from this, Buriganga is also the destination of household waste in the capital. These wastes are coming into the river without any treatment. From there it spreads to other rivers in the vicinity.
According to a recent study, 11 types of harmful metals have been found in the waters of different rivers in Dhaka and Chattogram. Among the rivers, lakes, or canals polluted in the study are Sangu, Kaptai Lake, Matamuhuri, Naf, Bakkhali, Kasalang, Bhairab, Mayur, Rajkhali Canal. More than acceptable levels of zinc, copper, iron, lead, cadmium, nickel, manganese, arsenic, chromium, carbon monoxide and mercury have been found in these reservoirs.
Experts have mentioned that in the last 40 years, the uninterrupted rivers in Dhaka, Chittagong and surrounding areas have been subjected to extreme levels of pollution. Pollution has reached different levels in almost all the rivers of the country, especially in the big rivers. Heavy metals from the industrial waste mix with water to create serious pollution at the bottom of the river. Especially in the dry season, the concentration of harmful metals in river water is high. Oxygen levels were found to be almost zero at several points in Buriganga, Turag, Balu, Shitalakshya and Karnafuli rivers. Without adequate oxygen in the water, it is almost impossible for fish or other aquatic life to survive.
We need to be aware now to reduce river pollution. Preventing river pollution is not the only task of the government. Everyone needs to be aware. As a result of river pollution, the food produced by us has also become contaminated. Various heavy metals are entering the human body directly through human consumption. For a long time, these contaminated foods can cause diseases like cancer in the human body.
To prevent river pollution surveillance should be increased first. The reasons why river water is being polluted should be stopped by monitoring from the source and discharging the polluted liquid into the river. For this, it is important to enforce the existing laws. To restore river life, waste disposal systems must be ensured to maintain the chemical and biodiversity value of rivers. Everyone must come forward to protect the river. It is not possible to save the rivers by punishment alone or by the government alone. For this, the common people have to be made aware. They have to explain the usefulness of the river. Besides, the concerned authorities have to ensure that those involved in pollution get proper punishment.
We have to protect the river in the interest of the country. All the rivers of the country must be saved. Need to take proper care. Dredging needs to be arranged. We have to work considering the importance of river reform and maintenance.
If the river does not survive, it will be difficult to save Bangladesh, that is, the public life of Bangladesh will be disrupted. Our rivers are connected with our life, livelihood, culture, art and literature. These rivers have enriched our agriculture, nature and economy for thousands of years. If the river is not protected then the future of Bangladesh will not be saved. For this, river protection should be considered a priority and work should be done accordingly. Everyone must come forward for this. The government has to take a very long-term plan to save the rivers.
To maintain the existence of riverine Bangladesh, there is no alternative but to protect the river and maintain its navigability of the river. Sustainable development also requires the protection of rivers and proper use of water. The river is the lifeblood of Bangladesh. Therefore, to protect the vitality of the country, river occupation must be stopped and river pollution must be stopped.
The development process that can be accelerated by preserving a safe environment for future generations is considered sustainable development. The government is taking special steps for this. Bangladesh has implemented MDGs very successfully. With this in mind, the United Nations has formulated and implemented the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030). Besides, the government of Bangladesh is firmly committed to the implementation of Vision 2041.
Sustainable development requires maintaining social and environmental balance with economic development. According to the study, 6 billion tons of natural resources were used in 2009. By 2050, 140 billion tons will be used, which will upset the balance of the world. Humans have lost 20 percent of cultivable land, 30 percent of forest land and 10 percent of grazing land. Due to housing and industrialization in Bangladesh, agricultural land is declining by 1 percent every year. Biodiversity is becoming extinct. More than half of the rivers are extinct. The rest is ruined by occupation.
To establish the economy that we need for sustainable development, the river must regain its lost glory and youth. Rivers are closely associated with our nature and environment. We have to move forward with everyone for sustainable development and river protection. River use is now multidimensional. People are using the river without realizing it. Large factories have sprung up along the river, and thousands of launch steamers are now on the river. Hundreds of dams on the river. The river is being used as and when required.
About 60 million people in the world cannot drink pure water now and there is no adequate drainage system for 2.5 billion people. Every year 60-70 lakh people are dying of water-borne diseases. The availability of water in different parts of the world is decreasing day by day. However, by 2050, the amount of water used in agriculture alone could increase by 19 percent. Without technological advancement or policy mediation, it could escalate further.
Due to the adverse effects of climate change, rivers change their course frequently. As a result, charitable land has become a common sight in Bangladesh and cultivable land is declining. There are about 109 char Upazilas in 32 districts of Bangladesh. About seven hundred rivers, big and small, have flowed through this small country. People’s occupations, livelihoods and literary culture are all directly or indirectly dependent on the river. In our country, river water is used in the land cultivated near the river. The produce is taken to the city by the river.
Rivers are an integral part of our social life and one of the driving forces of the national economy. Understanding the importance of the river is therefore most important. By 2030, the food demand of the growing population is expected to increase by 50 percent, which will be 60 percent by 2050, while the total energy demand, including hydropower and other renewable energy resources, will increase by 60 percent. Increased agricultural production will greatly increase competition in both water and energy demand in water-used fields.
We have to protect the environment while keeping the economy afloat. Again, the economy must be kept active for the environment. In the interest of healthy living, the river must be brought back to normal. But the immense gift of nature is that we cannot save the river. The environment cannot be protected alone. Everyone must come forward to protect the river and the environment. Just as we have to work to keep the economy afloat, we also need to protect our environment.
The importance of regional common river management for overcoming the effects of climate change is immense. For that, we have to emphasize river management based on the agreement that exists between India and Bangladesh. We have to move forward with a political decision in this regard. The young generation must be involved in the fight to build a beautiful Bangladesh of the future by protecting the river and the environment. To protect the river, it is important to solve the river problem through the implementation of the water policy of 1999 and the water act of 2013. For that, first of all, we have to work by involving the victims and the victims with any plan.
Necessary preparations have been made to alleviate the suffering of the people. To protect the croplands as much as possible from the outbreak of saltwater, to take necessary measures to prevent a large number of people from being displaced due to drought, river erosion etc.
Each district has a river protection committee headed by a Deputy Commissioner. The committee works with all to work against river filling and illegal occupation, to carry out administrative work of river dredging and to create various social awareness in river protection. But neither the district administration nor the water development board alone can save the river. Everyone must come forward for this. Above all, the government needs to accelerate the work of public-private projects with medium and long-term plans. Similarly, the accountability of these works should be increased.
Hiren Pandit is a columnist and researcher.