Save the Rivers
They Are Facing Great Threat
Professor Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder :
"River is a living entity, ensure its legal rights". In keeping with this theme, Rivers Day is being celebrated across the country as like as every year. Annually World Rivers Day takes place on the last Sunday of September. This day highlights the many values of rivers and strives to increase public awareness and encourage people to improve the current situation of rivers around the world. Many organization, academician and activist are organizing awareness campaign 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 some other Government and Non-government Universities are arranging the river day programs. They are celebrating this day for saving our river because our rivers are dying fast. Though Bangladesh is a riverine country but river management of Bangladesh is not so good. High-court has announced 2 laws to save the rivers on 2009 & 2019. This time high-court awarded the river as "Living Entity", "Legal Entity" & "Legal Person" to ensure the Extreme important of Rivers.
If someone would describe Bangladesh, they can't ever miss out the word 'River.' No one can separate these two from each other. Bangladesh is said to be the largest delta in the world. 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. Rivers have their ways and pattern. It sometimes may seem like they are alive. But with each day these are facing a great threat and receiving a lot of harm from the ones, who should have protected them in the first place. 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, chemical and oil spills.
According to 'Asian Water Development Outlook-20', among the 48 countries of Asia and the Pacific region, Bangladesh River's water polluted most. Nowadays five rivers in Dhaka (Buriganga, Turag, Balu, Dhaleswari and Pungili) and two in Chattogram (Karnaphuli and Halda) and their tributaries are in a dangerous situation. According to World Bank study, four major rivers near Dhaka - the Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag and Balu receive 1.5 million cubic meters of wastewater every day from 7,000 industrial units in surrounding areas and another 0.5 million cubic meters from other sources. Department of the Environment conducted a survey on river pollution, according to the survey; the country's 20 major rivers have exceeded pollution levels. Their water pollution is reaching dangerous levels, especially during the dry season, from November to April. Above all the statement show that how much our rivers have suffered.
In 2018, a study by Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh in associate with Poribesh Bachao Andolon (POBA) jointly analyzed that the parameter of five rivers (Buriganga, Dhaleshwari, Shitalakhya, Balu & Turag) in around Dhaka. Study found that highest Dissolved Oxygen (DO) value was 5.5 mg/l and minimum was 2.7 mg/l. The concentration of Salinity was 0.7 to 0.12 ppt and pH also increased which range from 9.1 to 10 and where the standard value for inland surface water DO is above 5 mg/l, Salinity is 0.5 ppt and pH range 6.5-8.5.
Although there are a lot of wrongs already done to the rivers, the silver lining here is that we do have the rights and laws for our rivers as well. According to Article 18(A) of the Constitution of Bangladesh, which clearly states that the state shall endeavor to protect and conserve river, wetland 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, control and mitigation of the environmental pollution. The government of Bangladesh has the provision of punishment according to the Environment Protection Act, 1995. As per Article 9, if any institution leaves any kind of contaminated material in the river, then maximum imprisonment of 10 years or a fine of 10 lakh BDT or both. They can be punished for it. According to the orders of the High Court Division Case No 7/21, 5/1 and 7/6 and the latest directive of the High Court, it is illegal to construct any building, including sand and soil, in the land of 5 meters of land on the foreshore of the river. Other than these, there are still many more rules and regulations which are being modified with time. But very sadly, despite having so many rules, the lack of enactment and implementation has caused the conditions to be as such that they are right now.
Not only municipal sewage or industrial effluents are polluting the river. Because of other environmental pollution, like unplanned solid waste management, over pesticide use in agriculture etc. are also causes of river pollution. It is high time to prevent those causes which are directly or indirectly polluting river water. It is impossible to reduce river pollution by only government initiative. Recently River Commission enlisted 42 thousand river occupiers but environmentalist said it is an incomplete list, occupiers are more. After all it is a good initiative. People should support the government initiative and work together. But it's still incomplete. The entire river should cease to be occupied and there must be a voice against the occupiers. Finally "The Places of the River will have to be returned to the River".
(Professor Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, Chairman, Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh and Md Nasir Ahmmed Patoary, student of same university have preparred the article jointly.)