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The river must be returned to its place

  • Published at 12:01 am September 21st, 2019
Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain

It is high time we prioritized the protection of our rivers  

Annually, World Rivers Day takes place on the last Sunday of September. In keeping with the theme, “river is a living entity, ensure its legal rights” it is being celebrated across the country. 

This day highlights the many values of rivers and strives to increase public awareness to improve the current situation of rivers around the world. 

Many organizations, academicians, and activists are organizing awareness campaigns and human chains to celebrate this day. In our country, National River Conservation Commission, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), Riverine People, Buriganga Bachao Andolon, Green Voice, and government and non-government universities are arranging the river day programs.

They are celebrating this day for saving our rivers because our rivers are dying fast. 

Though Bangladesh is a riverine country, river management in Bangladesh is not good.

If someone would describe Bangladesh, they can’t miss out the word river. The birth of the country occurred because of deposition of sediments. 

Although the major rivers of Bangladesh are Padma, Meghna, Jamuna, and Brahmaputra, many other small rivers also join these along the way. But with each day these are facing great threats. We have degraded our rivers to such an extent that it may take a while for them to recover.

Rivers are dumped with various wastes such as household waste, industrial waste, and plastic bags. Wastewater is discharged legally or illegally by a manufacturer, oil refinery, or wastewater treatment facility, as well as contamination from leaking septic systems, and chemical and oil spills.

Among the 48 countries of Asia and the Pacific region, Bangladesh has the most polluted waters. According to a World Bank study, four major rivers near Dhaka -- the Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag, and Balu -- receive 1.5 million cubic metres of wastewater every day from 7,000 industrial units in the surrounding areas.

Although there is a lot of wrong already done to our rivers, the silver lining is that we do have the rights and laws for our rivers. Article 18(A) of the Constitution of Bangladesh, which clearly states that the state shall endeavour to protect and conserve rivers, wetlands, and forests. 

Other laws such as the Bangladesh Water Act 2013, the National River Protection Commission Act 2013, and the Environment Conservation Act 1995 all have the provision for the protection of the environment and control and mitigation of environmental pollution.

Sadly, despite having many rules, the lack of enactment and implementation has caused the river conditions to be what they are right now.

Municipal sewage or industrial discharge are not the only pollutants of rivers. There are other causes of environmental pollution such as unplanned solid waste management, excessive pesticide use in agriculture etc which causes river pollution. 

It is high time to prevent the causes which are directly or indirectly polluting our river’s water. It is impossible to reduce river pollution through only government initiatives. People should support government initiatives and work together. 

Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder is Chairman, Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh. Md Nasir Ahmmed Patoary is a student in the Department of Environmental Science at Stamford University Bangladesh.