The drive launched by the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) from 29 January to dismantle illegal structures on Buriganga river was different from the previous ones. The previous drives were short-lived, stopped suddenly by influential quarters. But, this time the drive knocked down establishments of influential people and groups. It continued for more than one and a half months.
It is hoped that the BIWTA this time demolished all kinds of unauthorised structures including one-storey and multi-storey. We welcome BIWTA's drive of bulldozing illegal establishments. There still remains a question as to how someone could build such structures without any legal papers. Why was action not taken against those who committed these illegal acts? Earlier, many people were spared from the eviction drive and it is hoped that this is not repeated all over again.
We need to keep in mind that the river cannot be saved merely by demolishing unauthorised structures on its banks. Garbage is dumped into the river every day and that must be stopped. Besides blocking the flow of water, the waste creates a landfill which leads to further encroachment.
The encroachment and landfill of the old channel of Buriganga river (from Dhaleshwari river to Basila) is going on in one way or another. Buriganga’s second channel is facing death.
If Buriganga is allowed to flow freely, the river can survive. If not, it cannot be kept alive.
The government has taken many measures to save the Buriganga while non-government organisations stage protests for the same cause. The High Court has issued several directives too. But there has been no change.
No factory on the banks of Buriganga except Hazaribagh tannery factories could be relocated from the banks of Buriganga. Tonnes of wastes from these factories and household are being discharged into the river every day. But, no step has so far been taken to remove these industries.
Dhaka is an exceptional city surrounded by rivers. In this respect, Dhaka is environment-friendly, encircled by Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Dhaleshwari. Once, Buriganga was the major mode of transportation for Dhaka city to communicate with the rest of the country. But with the passage of time, that Buriganga is dying while others are also going through the pangs of death.
These rivers were not filled or grabbed overnight. The rivers surrounding Dhaka have been dying for long due to such illegal activities and the authorities’ failure.
A water bus service around Dhaka city started earlier, but has been stopped due to difficulty in navigation. This has created difficulty for the passengers.
Laws alone cannot save the river. Besides enforcing the law, public awareness should be mobilised. Every citizen has to be the protector of Buriganga.
Let’s save Buriganga to keep Dhaka alive. Let’s save Buriganga to keep ourselves and Dhaka alive. Let us save Buriganga to keep Dhaka city alive and its denizens happy and healthy.