Rivers must be saved

17 January, 2020 12:00 AM printer

River pollution is a civic menace which is unchecked and growing. Civic nuisance it is but it is also harmful in far more worrisome ways, as an environmental blight and threat to public health. Yet, adequate measures have not been taken to tackle river pollution, despite repeated media coverage. Although recently we have seen a praiseworthy drive to rescue rivers from illegal encroachment, checking pollution seems to have remained a low priority as ever.

For example, the river Buriganga has been in death throes for decades due to pollution. As part of a remedial measure the government has relocated over a hundred tannery factories from the bank of the river to a designated tannery park in Savar. We hoped the move would substantially improve water quality of the river, but sadly, little has changed, if not deteriorated further.

A photograph published in this daily lays bare the moribund condition of Buriganga, which used to be the lifeline of the capital city. The photo shows that the river is on the verge of losing its very existence as a torrent of wastes from dyeing mills and factories are being released into the river.

This is, however, not an isolated case. All rivers in and around the city are being polluted. Strangled by trash, sewage and other wastes, mighty rivers like Buriganga and Turag are now struggling for survival with aquatic life almost dead. The water in these rivers has become so dirty that one has to cover the nose to ward off bad smell.

We all know the main culprits are the industries and factories dotting the banks of the rivers. The factory owners apparently have little regard for the environment and directly discharge waste into the river. But hardly anyone is held responsible for these offences.

When the executive fails in its primary duties and ignores environmental causes which are very much linked to our survival, the court has to intervene as the custodian. In this light, the High Court recently directed WASA to take necessary steps to close its 68 sewerage lines connected to Buriganga. The court also directed Department Environment (DoE) to shut 27 dyeing factories, and private hospitals on the bank of the river, which have no environmental clearance certificates. The authorities concerned must obey the directives. Besides, awareness about river pollution and level of civic responsibility in this regard must be raised.