Water bodies including rivers, canals, lakes and wetlands of in and around the capital Dhaka have continuously been grabbed by influential land grabbers backed by politicians, speakers said at a knowledge-sharing seminar.
Besides, water in all of the water bodies have been polluted due to unplanned sewerage, drainage system and dumping of waste by Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa), Dhaka north and south city corporations, and Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk). Unplanned industrialisation and illegal business establishments are also contributing to the unabated pollution.
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) organised the seminar on water and waste titled “Excreta Does Matter” at the BIP secretariat in the capital. Environmentalists and professionals on water from India and Bangladesh presented research papers and spoke on the issues.
Prof Dr Shahjahan Mondal of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) said: “Encroachment has been taken place at more than 3,000 locations of the Dhaka’s five rivers. The BIWTA identified 7,154 individuals and organisations as encroachers. The occupiers are usually the influential section of the society and use their political and financial power to manage the government machinery.”
Shahjahan claimed that the grabbers network had infiltrated deep into the government and a section of the public servants and institutions help facilitate such occupation by preparing fake documents and staying reluctant to take action.
“Maintenance of waterways’ navigability and eviction of illegal occupation fall under laws. DCC, Wasa and Rajuk are run by their laws. But it is not clear whether the environment conservation laws can regulate the polluting activities of these government bodies,” he added.
He also said siltation, closure of spill channels, sediments and disposal of solid waste into water were the main reasons behind pollution of water bodies.
The massive pollution has been affecting the natural resources, social life, human health, income and ground water. He stressed that the regulators strengthen their capacity to control river pollution.
Dr Abdul Matin of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa) said the number of rivers had reduced to around 310 from around 1,500 in the 11th century. “Bapa has to face resistance of political activists in its field-level activities to protect the rivers and other water bodies.”
He identified three types of pollution physical contamination, chemical contamination and trans-boundary mixed pollution.
Nitya Jacob, programme director of water programmes (research and advocacy) of the CSE, presented a paper titled” Excreta Matters: Indian’s River Pollution Challenges.” The document depicts the sewerage problems of Indian cities.
Prof Dilip K Dutta presented “Chemical-geochemical Characteristics of Rivers in Bangladesh.”
Sushmita Sengupta, deputy program manager of water programmes (research& advocacy) of the CSE, presented an interesting paper titled “Groundwater Scenario, Recharge Options and Source Sustainability Experiences from India.” She stated that there was no data on extraction of ground water of the cities.
Prof Kazi Matin, Dhaka University presented a paper titled “Groundwater Quality and Hazards in Bangladesh.” He said: “We do not have shortage of water but potable water is scarce.”
Prof CS Jahan of Rajshahi University presented “Mapping of Groundwater Recharge Potential in Bangladesh.”
Buet’s Prof Dr Ishrat Islam presented “City-level Rainwater Harvesting through Conservation of Lakes and Ponds in Bangladesh Current Threat.”
She described the historical importance of water bodies in Dhaka. Then she presented the pattern of wetland loss from 1989 to 2010 when wetland decreases 16 % to 9% during this period. She also said Detailed Area Plan (DAP) suggested 29% wetland of the total area in its proposal which is absent.
Finally, she suggested some steps to protect the wetland of Dhaka city like including the local people to stop land grabbing by real estate, increasing tax on vacant land, enforcing of rules and acts and finally she put emphasis on political will.
At the beginning of the seminar, the welcome note was presented by Khondaker M Ansar Hossain, General Secretary of BIP. The Chair of the seminar Prof Dr Golam Rahman, addressed the seminar.