Free rivers and canals to save Bangladesh

8 February, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Bangladesh is a riverine country. The deltaic alluvial plain was created by thousands of rivers flowing through her into the Bay of Bengal. Once Bangladesh had 1300 rivers flowing through her fertile plains but those have now reduced to only a few hundreds. Hundreds of rivers dried up and died due to encroachment and lack of care.

To save the remaining rivers, the High Court made a landmark decision granting legal status to all the rivers of Bangladesh in February 2019, thus giving them legal right of protection. In India and New Zealand, such right is given to a few rivers, but in Bangladesh, it is given to all the rivers. The verdict declares river encroachment and river pollution as criminal offences, and recommends strict penalties for the offences. Adoption of a comprehensive law can now help protect rivers and water bodies by incorporating the clauses of the judgment to ensure its implementation.

Recently, the two city corporations of Dhaka have also taken over the responsibilities of 26 canals, 10 kilometres of box culverts and 385 kilometres of storm water drainage from Dhaka WASA. Over the years, under WASA the canals were grabbed by powerful quarters, some being occupied by the government itself, leading to an acute water logging problems in the city. As the city corporation fathers expressed that they will solve the long-standing problems of canal encroachment and water logging once entrusted with the responsibility, we hope water logging will be a thing of the past now onwards.

If there is a will there is always a way. Therefore, freeing the city's canals and rivers from the clutches of encroachers should not be impossible too. Cleaning the canals and rivers is not a difficult job, but will be a lengthy and recurring one for the city corporations. Cleaning the city roads is an ongoing process – a daily job; likewise the water bodies in and around Dhaka must be continually cleaned too.

Local authorities must also be empowered to clear the rivers, haors, baors, beels, canals, etc. from encroachment all over the country and once again make Bangladesh beautiful and rich in water resources, with fresh water flowing through them. Rivers must be encroachment-free to allow the rivers to flow freely to enrich our fertile lands.