Protecting our rivers cannot be an afterthought

Ensure that the rivers in Bangladesh remain a vital source of water, livelihoods, and biodiversity

The International Day of Action For Rivers, observed today on March 14 every year, is a day that is dedicated to saving, celebrating, and creating awareness about the importance of rivers.

Bangladesh has long been known as the land of rivers, with hundreds of rivers flowing through the country. However, despite the abundance of water resources, the rivers in Bangladesh continue facing severe threats -- river erosion, salinity, encroachment, and subsequent loss of habitat are some of the major challenges that must be addressed to protect the rivers and ensure their sustainability.

It is a shame how river erosion's devastating impact on the people who live along the riverbanks seems to only get worse; every year, hundreds of families lose their homes, land, and livelihoods due to river erosion. This problem is exacerbated by climate change, which is causing more frequent and severe floods.

Salinity issues are also a significant threat to the rivers in Bangladesh. Due to sea-level rise and reduced freshwater flow, saltwater intrusion is becoming increasingly common in the rivers. This has a severe impact on agriculture, as crops cannot grow in saline soil. 

And of course, as a result of activities such as deforestation and encroachment due to unchecked urbanization, the natural habitat along the riverbanks is disappearing. This loss of habitat is a significant threat to the biodiversity of the rivers and the ecological balance.

There is plenty the authorities concerned can do when it comes to addressing these issues -- from building embankments and dredging rivers to mitigate erosion, implementing measures such as water diversion and rainwater harvesting to combat salinity issues and ensure the sustainability of agriculture, and finally, emphasize on reforestation and land-use planning to protect the natural habitat along the riverbanks.

Of course, this will require a coordinated effort among policymakers, scientists, and the public to develop and implement sustainable solutions that balance economic development with environmental conservation. By working together, we can ensure that the rivers in Bangladesh remain a vital source of water, livelihoods, and biodiversity for generations to come.