We are alarmed to know that the Karnaphuli River in Chattogram district has lost an average of 500 metres in width due to encroachment and siltation in the last 22 years. As a result the river has been narrowed to its half and is literally standing on death’s door. Indeed a photograph published in yesterday’s Daily Sun shows the mighty Karnaphuli, what was once one of the country’s largest rivers, is now looking like a canal.
Like many other rivers in Bangladesh, the Karnaphuli too is being choked by siltation, encroachment and pollution, while the authorities concerned remained indifferent. It is an important river both environmentally and economically for the port city and we don’t understand how the authorities can remain nonchalant while the lifeline of the city is being choked.
Some dredging work is seen from time to time in the river, evicting the encroachers and mitigating pollution seems to have remained a low priority. Encroachment of rivers by influential quarters is responsible for wiping a good number of rivers off the map all across the country, but it is unfortunate that the authorities are turning a blind eye to it.
Earlier it was reported that the government is implementing a master plan to improve navigability of the waterways across the country as more than 2,000 kilometres of river routes have become inaccessible over the last decade due to loss of navigability. Under the master plan, extensive river dredging was supposed to be conducted considering the adverse impacts of poor navigability of rivers. As per the master plan, saving Karnaphuli should be top priority.
Interestingly, as many as 11 inter-ministerial and autonomous bodies are involved in the task of overall upkeep of the rivers, but the sorry state of our rivers belies the involvement of so many bodies. It is about time all the relevant agencies made concerted efforts to save our rivers.