Bangladesh is called a riverine country. But how long the country will be able to hold the status of being so is the question of the day. From time immemorial the rivers have been contributing significantly to our lives and livelihoods. Our life is directly or indirectly dependent on the rivers surrounding us. Can we deny the contribution of rivers in an agrarian society? Obviously, the answer will be negative.
But despite the fact that rivers are playing a huge importance in our socio-economic context, how far could we realize the true importance of our rivers? In many cases, our attitudes towards the rivers do not prove that rivers are our living entities and our existence mostly becomes impossible without the rivers. Rather, alarmingly a great number of rivers are on the verge of extinction and mainly our mindless acts contribute to dying of these rivers.
It is estimated that at one time we had 700 rivers. According to many reports, more than a hundred rivers have already died since independence. Not only that, there are around 405 rivers in the country facing serious threats either for climate change or for many more man-made cruelties such as rampant grabbing and indiscriminate polluting .
Again, it is evident that man has somehow a connection to accelerating climatic change as many more unwise acts we are doing that go on influencing the environment and our survival on earth with negative consequences.
Not only big rivers are being threatened but also a large number of small rivers along with their branches are found critically endangered. The causes are many that lead to extinction of our rivers along with their surrounding resources. The land grabbers and the dishonest syndicates are mostly responsible for the rivers to die.
Things are found alarming that how people are doing unwise acts and showing cruelties against our river resources. It is true that in many cases, the politically grown up syndicates using their muscle power are not only destroying our rivers but also the surrounding biodiversity causing great harms to animals and many other species.
Again sand lifting from the rivers is enormously affecting the ways of rivers. The syndicates who are involved in sand lifting business hardly pay any heed to the country’s law and order and in most cases, the locals hardly dare to lodge any complaint against them. Due to the river bed heavily affected, natural disasters such as flood, cyclones, etc. have become an annual occurrence in the country.
On top of that, the syndicates are found to fill up the adjacent lands of the riverbed along with water bodies and build up personal infrastructures but in many cases, their ill-doings are untouched by the law which is really shocking.
Truly, in the rural areas the branches of many rivers have been turned into cultivable lands as for years there is no initiative found to dredge those, rather different types of wastages create blockades and accelerate their death. Sometimes, we see that the grabbers create barricade amid the rivers and cultivate fishes which disrupts the normal ways of the rivers.
But the rivers in the city areas are more vulnerable. Due to the major industrialization in the cities, the rivers undergo serious threats. Once the river Buriganga was source lives and livelihoods for the people in the city. But now it has lost its naturalness due to unabated grabbing, rampant dumping of waste and pollution.
According to an estimate, there are over 7,000 industries in Dhaka and its adjacent areas alone producing huge waste. The waste of these industries is connected to the sewerage systems which end up in the rivers polluting the water and disrupting the environment in a large scale though the government has advised the concerned to take up initiatives to save river pollution.
Apart from this, modern technology-dependent cultivation has a severe impact on our rivers. It is true that insecticide and chemical fertilizers help to grow more foods but contrarily they cause river pollution when they wash away into the rivers. Due to the rampant use of these chemicals, fishes and other species face the extinction.
Since the civilization, river ways have been used for transporting goods around the world. When the communication facilities on roads were not developed, people would choose the river ways as the only means of exporting and importing their goods.
Even people were habituated to travel from one place to another by river ways. Also these days a large portion of people find river ways comfortable. Now we hardly see the boatmen sailing boats with singing traditional Bengali songs.
We, the common people, cannot deny that we are causing river pollution in many ways. It has been a common sight that when people travel by ferry or launch, they throw away their used plastic bottles on water. Hawkers are found to throw away food wastes into the water body. Ultimately, the water body gets flooded with plastic bottles and many other waste materials causing enormous harms to our rivers.
Dumping oil is also causing serious river pollution but we are not aware of this, rather we are busy with our own interest ignoring the national or societal benefits. We can hardly think that we are cutting our own legs by doing these unwise acts.
However, the government has massive plans to dredge the rivers and conserve the environment. Not only that, many environmental organizations bring out procession, arrange seminars and symposiums and most often cry out for protecting the rivers and their surrounding resources. But how far they make us aware of the importance of rivers in our life is still a matter of question. Usually, things cannot bring any positive outcome unless we come out of the cocoon of our personal interest.
To this end, it is time to take appropriate actions to save our rivers and we know that the existing laws to conserve rivers can hardly do anything positive in this regard unless the people of all walks become aware of the fact that rivers are a blessing for our existence on earth.
The writer teaches at Prime University. Email: [email protected]