With the latest addition of Halda River, the total number of the ECAs in Bangladesh will rise to 13.
The Halda is going to be the fifth river which will be declared as an ECA. The other four rivers are Buriganga, Shitalakkhya, Turag and Balu.
As per the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995, if the government is satisfied that an area is in an environmentally critical situation or threatened to be in such situation, the government may declare such area as an ECA by a gazete notification.
Twelve sites have already been declared as ECA in the country, including Hakaluki Haor, Sonadia Island, Saint Martin’s Island, Teknaf Peninsula (including Cox’s Bazar beach), Tanguar Haor, Marjat Baor, outside of Sundarbans Reserved Forest to an extent of 10km and Gulshan-Baridhara lake.
Md Masud Karim, director, Department of Environment, Chittagong Region told the Dhaka Tribune that the 107km-long river from its upstream to confluence was going to be announced as an ECA within a very short time.
“The activities or process which cannot be initiated or continued in the vicinity of an ECA will also be specified in the gazette. Recently, the government has enacted Ecologically Critical Area Management Rules, 2016. Department of Environment (DoE) is the statutory body to manage an ECA and all necessary measures will be undertaken to save the river,” said the DoE director, adding that no establishment like industrial unit or brick kiln will be allowed within 500 metres on both sides of the river.
During the Bangla months of Baishakh and Jaishtha (April and May) every year, different indigenous species of mother fish, like Catla (Catla catla), Ruhi (Labeo rohita), Mrigal (Cirrhinus marigala) and Kalbaoush (Labeo calbasu) start migrating to the spawning ground from different rivers like Karnaphuli, Matamuhuri and Sangu.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Md Manzoorul Kibria, a researcher and president of Halda River Protection Committee, said: “The ECA is an environmental protection zone. The government in the gazette notification prohibits some activities or processes, which cannot be initiated or continued in an ECA like polluting water by discharging waste or any other activities that could destroy or change the natural characteristics of an ECA.”