World Rivers Day 2019
River: A living entity
Bangladesh is a country of river and rivulets. There are many rivers crisscrossed over the green land of our country. That is why 'Bangladesh' and 'River' are two inseparable words for us. And also Bangladesh is said to be the largest delta in the world. The birth of the country occurred because of deposition of sediments. Rivers are also related to our economy and prosperity.
However we are not taking care of them properly. Our mighty rivers are facing great threats everyday and we are responsible for it. Indeed, we have tarnished and almost destroyed our rivers to such an extent that it may take a while to recover.
It is essential for the safety of the environment and people, to address the issues that are the causes of river damage and its degradation. Thanks to some great minds, who thought of a day that we can dedicate to the all the rivers around the world and also discuss the problems related to rivers. An initiative was taken by the United Nations in 2005, by introducing the 'Water for Life Decade'.
This was created in order to build more awareness for the need of greater care of the water resources. An internationally renowned river advocate, Mark Angelo proposed a day to celebrate world's waterways. The proposal of World River Day was followed by the success of BC River Day which was again founded and led by Mark Angelo in western Canada since 1980. The first-ever World River Day was celebrated in 2005. Since then it is observed annually across the globe on the last Sunday of September. The theme for this year is, "river is a living entity, ensure its legal rights." Honorable High-court has announced 2 laws to save the rivers on 2009 & 2019. This time high-court awarded the river as "Living Entity "," Legal Entity" and "Legal Person" to ensure the Extreme important of Rivers. Many events are set up for this day, as such from, fish enhancement projects and stream clean-ups to forming human-chains for creating awareness and setting educational tours. Each country has its own way and ideas of celebrating the occasion.
Bangladesh has always been rich in resources of water. The total amount of wetland is 11 per cent to that of the total volume of the country. But for sometimes now we have taken these resources for granted. Rivers are being polluted every day. The rivers of Dhaka are a great example. Due to major industrialization in the last few decades, Dhaka has become filled will factories and workshops.
According to estimation, there are over 7000 industries, only in the Hazaribagh, Tejgaon, and Dhaka-Narayanganj-Demra dam areas. The wastes produced by those industries are connected to the sewerage systems which end up in the river. In fact, the rivers are polluted by all states of matter.
From discharging urban wastewater, agrochemicals, untreated industrial effluent, sewage water, to dumping solid wastes, oil spillage, and storm runoff; all kinds of pollution end up in the river. Every day, around 0.4 to 0.7 kilograms per capita of solid waste is produced by Dhaka city but only 0.2 kilograms per capita is collected .The reason behind this, is the lack of systematic management of collection, transfer, transportation and disposal of the waste.
Rivers act as natural drainage for the city and when rainfall occurs all the water from the rain sweep into these rivers along with the waste that they carry. Among the untreated liquid waste, 61 per cent is from industries and 39 per cent is from domestic use. And out of all the liquid waste from industries, only 10 per cent is usable. Rests of these are simply dumped into the rivers that we pretend to care about. Not only industries but launches, trawlers, steamers also spill oil and other chemicals into rivers all around the country.
Encroachment of the rivers is also a very big issue that we have to deal with. Both solid and liquid waste dumping may cause the composition of the river to change. It may pollute the water to such an extent that affects the ecosystem of the river. And now in Buriganga, Shitalakhya, and Balu rivers, due to massive pollutants, the water has become unsuitable for human use. In addition to all of these, illegal sand mining is one more spirit-breaking fact that we know of. We need our rivers far more than we think we do. And we need to act soon, because our rivers are dying. However we are still not protecting them, instead we are killing them. We are slowly squeezing the life out of them to make money, to grow our industries, and fulfill our worldly needs.
Although there are a lot of wrongs already done to the rivers, but the silver lining here is that we do have the rights and laws for our rivers as well. According to Article 18(A) of the Constitution of Bangladesh, which clearly states, "the state shall endeavor to protect and conserve river, wetland and forests. Other laws such as the Bangladesh Water Act 2013, the National River Protection Commission Act 2013 and the Environment Conservation Act 1995- all have the provision for the protection of the environment, control and mitigation of the environmental pollution. Other than these, there are still many more rules and regulations which are being modified with time. But very sadly, despite having so many rules, the lack of enactment and implementation has caused the conditions to be as such that they are right now.
Our beloved rivers are the heart of this country. But it seems that we have forgotten this. We have forgotten what the rivers have given us and what will we be without them. The government, local communities and every individual- we all need to act together and fast in order to save our rivers. Each one of us needs to plant this in our mind that, to ensure our future and our rights, we must ensure the rights of the river.
Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder is a Chairman, Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh
Anika Tahsin is a Research Associate, Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh