Experts and green activists on Tuesday demanded that the rivers to be recognised as living being for saving those.
They raised the demand mentioning that rivers are being killed through unplanned development, encroachment, pollution and climate change impacts.
The demand came out at the inaugural session of a two-day international conference titled ‘River: A living Being’ being at Kuakata of Patuakhali, said an ActionAid press release.
On the opening day, ActionAid country director for Bangladesh Farah Kabir presented a concept paper at the programme where she said the rivers in Bangladesh are dyeing due to unplanned development which is affecting the people’s lives and livelihood.
Describing water and life as synonymous, she said there is no alternative to letting rivers take their own course.
A World Bank study said four major rivers near Dhaka — Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag and Balu — receive 1.5 million cubic metres of wastewater every day from 7,000 industrial units in surrounding areas and another 0.5 million cubic metres from other sources.
The Environment and Forest Ministry enacted a law in 1995 making it mandatory for all industrial units to use effluent treatment plants (ETPs) to save river waters from pollution, but owners often flout the rule.
South Asia is surrounded by hundreds of rivers which are most inter-border ones and common natural assent for the people from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Myanmar and deeply connected to their lives.
In the concept paper, Sarah Kabir said a river also has feelings and the right of live. “So, it should be recognised as a living being practically and legally.”
She also cited the example of New Zealand and India where rivers were given the same rights as enjoyed by humans legally, saying this can be followed here.
At the inaugural session, Ainun Nishat, eminent water expert and Professor Emeritus of BRAC University, said people need to understand rivers well that they have feelings too and take projects accordingly to save them.
The living entity of a river becomes evident through the impacts of a dead one on people. “When a river is in bad shape, it affects people, too. We don’t recognise that a river is a living being. Because we’re destroying river’s right and entity through occupation, pollution, unplanned development and climate change impacts.”
The issues of water right, water democracy and water-related inventions also came up for discussion at the programme.
The emphasis was given on four topics -– water, power, biodiversity and river silt – to save rivers.
Speaking at the inaugural session as the chief guest, National River
Conservation Commission (NRCC) Chairman Dr Muzibur Rahman Hawladar said, “Water is needed for life. But the reality is that we’re killing rivers. Although there’re laws, we can’t enforce those.”