Save the rivers for sustainable development

Hiren Pandit: Most of the rivers of the country including those in Dhaka are disappearing due to pollution. Especially around Dhaka, the aggressive hand of the occupiers are slowly but surely killing the Shitalakshya, Turag and Buriganga.

Sadly, the biggest pollutants are the government institutions. Of the 67 major pollutants in the Buriganga, 56 are under Dhaka WASA and BSCIC; a few belong to the city corporations.

The situation has reached such a stage that many rivers have already been wiped off the map. Of the 405 rivers in the country, 165 are on the verge of extinction due to encroachment and pollution. The remaining 230 are also at risk. About 24,000 kilometres of waterways have been reduced to just about 6,000 kilometres.
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Currently, 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, agriculture, livelihoods and literary culture are all directly or indirectly dependent on these rivers. But it feels as if there was a lack of determination and goodwill on the part of those concerned about the occupiers and polluters.

Rivers must be protected by putting the national interest above the interests of all kinds of individuals and groups. At various times, the government has conducted evictions of illegal establishments, but these measures never completely followed through and the remnants of those establishments spread and spread like cancers on the river banks.

There are policies and laws to protect the river, but they have not been implemented to their fullest extent. Water management needs to be done properly and the rivers should be allowed to flow normally.

Experts have mentioned that in the last 40 years, the uninterrupted rivers in Dhaka, Chattogram and surrounding areas have been subjected to extreme levels of pollution.

As we stand about waiting, more and more industrial waste is being disposed of in Buriganga, Turag, Tongi canal, Balu, Shitalakshya and Dhaleshwari. Moreover, Buriganga is also the destination of all household waste from the capital. And these wastes are coming into the river without any treatment.

According to a recent study, 11 types of harmful metals have been found in the waters of different rivers in Dhaka and Chattogram. These heavy metals include more than acceptable levels of zinc, copper, iron, lead, cadmium, nickel, manganese, arsenic, chromium, carbon monoxide and mercury.

These 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 rises.

Consequently, the 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.

Strict monitoring of the source of river pollution must be implemented. To restore river life, waste disposal systems must be consistent with the chemical and biodiversity value of rivers. Dredging can be a useful tool for already polluted rivers. Besides, the concerned authorities have to ensure that those involved in pollution get proper punishment.

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.

The development process that can be accelerated while preserving a safe environment for future generations is considered sustainable development. Sustainable development requires maintaining social and environmental balance with economic development.

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.

Hiren Pandit is a columnist and researcher, He can be contacted at

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