“Water, water everywhere, / nor any drop to drink”. The lines from ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge show how a sailor on a becalmed ship, surrounded by salt water, cannot drink a drop of it.
The lines indicate that the abundance of water is not enough if it is salty, polluted and unusable.
Like the mariner, city-dwellers are worst affected by the polluted rivers, canals and lakes in and around the capital.
Their outcry against the pollution of the water bodies is going unheeded.
Most of the water bodies have turned into mosquito breeding grounds and death traps due to lack of proper management.
Hatirjheel Lake, the biggest recreational place in the city, has lost public attraction for being a ‘dumping ground’ for household effluents and other garbage.
The number of visitors to the lake has declined sharply as they are welcomed by stink of the waste dumped there.
Besides, visitors contribute to the pollution by throwing bottles of soft drinks and small poly bags filled with groundnuts and biscuits they carry during their visit.
Many of them do not use waste bins installed everywhere in the lake area.
The condition of the beatification project has deteriorated to what an extent that its water from Sonargaon Hotel point to Madhubagh Bridge point is fully black like waters of five rivers around Dhaka.
There are piles of garbage on the banks of the lake while many bins on the lakesides were overflowing with waste for lack of regular cleaning.
As a result, adjacent areas of the Hatirjheel project are facing serious environmental pollution.
Industrial waste from some factories in Tajgaon is falling into Hatirjheel lake water.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) and Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) allowed waste dumping into Hatirjheel Lake only in the rainy season.
Waste refineries are yet to be implemented there. A strainer has been installed at the entrance to the sewage line near Sonargaon Hotel point to prevent solid waste, allowing sewerage water into the lake.
The five rivers crisscrossing around the capital— Buriganga, Balu, Turag, Sitalakkhya and Dhaleshwari — bear testimony to lack of initiative to prevent pollution.
Earlier, the High Court directed the authorities concerned to prevent pollution in the rivers, demarcate boundaries, install demarcation pillars, make walkway and demolish illegal structures.
The apex court directive is not properly complied with, resulting in continuous pollutions.
Tannery industries have been shifted from Hazaribagh to Savar following the apex court order. But this shift in reality signifies nothing other than transfer of pollution from Buriganga to Dhaleshwari.
It is reported that the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) in Savar Tannery Estate (STE) is yet to be constructed, let alone coming into effect.
Another report shows that jar and bottled waters are contaminated and causing cholera, typhoid, dysentery and jaundice.
Nearly 98 percent of jar and bottled water is found to be E. coli contaminated although water business has boomed in the recent years for lax monitoring.
As three-fourths of the Earth’s surface is water and one-fourth is land, people are supposed to get pure water for free, but this water has recently become a cash crop.
Besides, the water bodies have become deathtraps, rather than blessings and beauties. All people, especially children, have been exposed to detrimental effects of polluted and unmanaged lakes, canals and rivers.
Laws should not be confined to the book and authorities not to be a paper tiger. Rather, proper application of law is needed to save the water bodies.
The authorities concerned should be careful to protect lakes, rivers and canals from being polluted and grabbed.
Dhaka has retained the fourth least livable city position in the Global Livability Index, according to a livable ranking made by the Economist Intelligence Unit in August 2017.
Besides, proper maintenance of the water bodies and deltaic lands is needed for achieving sustainable development goals which require improving quality of environment and human health.
Individual and professional transparency, accountability and morality on the part of all concerned are needed to make the city a better livable place.