The government decided to declare the 107km stretch of river as an ECA; from its origin at Khagrachhari’s Ramgarh Upazila to the confluence of Karnaphuli River in Chittagong, to protect its ecology and biodiversity
An initiative to declare a stretch of the Halda River as an Ecologically Critical Area (ECA), to protect Bangladesh’s largest natural spawning ground for the carp fish, will not be implemented soon—as the Department of Environment (DoE) is yet to finish demarcating the area.
The government decided to declare the 107km stretch of river as an ECA; from its origin at Khagrachhari’s Ramgarh Upazila to the confluence of Karnaphuli River in Chittagong, to protect its ecology and biodiversity.
A draft gazette was issued on March 31 of this year to get comments from stakeholders.
A senior DoE official, declining to be named, told the Dhaka Tribune that it will be “at least two more months” before the river is declared as an ECA.
“We are trying to declare it as early as possible,” Solaiman Haider, a DoE director, said. “But we are having difficulties in finalizing the exact area of the river to be declared as protected.”
The government formulated the ECA rules in 1999 under the Bangladesh Environment Protection Act, 1995. Since then, 13 areas have been identified as ECAs to protect them from environmental and ecological degradation.
The senior DoE official said the Center for Environmental and Geographical Information Services (CEGIS) was working to digitize 500m along both sides of the river. This is essential to fix the total area marking of the river.
“We will send the application to the ministry after receiving the digitized version of the detailed area from CEGIS,” the official added.
The sorry state of the Halda
In recent months, various aquatic species, including freshwater dolphins, have been found dead in the river—prompting the DoE to conduct a survey to determine the reason.
In its report, the DoE blamed the huge amount of industrial waste as one of the major causes of river pollution—which ultimately made the water uninhabitable for aquatic species.
The pollution can be reduced if the river is brought under ECA rule, it added.
“The government initiative is urgent,” said Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmentalist Lawyers Association.
It will at least deter people from polluting the river, she added.
It appears that the government has failed to implement existing ECAs. Some protection measures have only been seen:on Saint Martin’s Island, in Hakaluki Haor, in Cox’s Bazar and on Sonadia Island—under the Coastal and Wetland Biodiversity Management project.
Replying to a question, a senior DoE official said they were facing funding shortages—but quickly added that they had plans to take protective measures.
Rizwana said the government should review proper implementation of the ECA rules in the protected areas. Otherwise, declaring ECAs will not produce the desired results.