THERE are more than a score of legislations and policies in Bangladesh to conserve and protect open water bodies, which are rivers, and close water bodies. The prominent among them are the Natural Water Reservoir Conservation Act 2000, which prohibits water bodies being developed into high land, and the Bangladesh Water Act 2013, which provisions for integrated development, management, abstraction, distribution, use, protection and conservation of water resources. There is also the National River Protection Commission founded by way of the National River Protection Commission Act 2013. Yet, unfortunately, all these legislations are known for their either no or poor enforcement, leading to almost no end in sight to the grabbing of water bodies, open or close. At least 45 per cent of Bangladesh’s natural wetlands disappeared, as a teacher of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology said quoting a study paper at a seminar marking World Water Day, which is observed on March 27. Worryingly still, Bangladesh, as other countries are, is set to observe the day, leaving the vital issues of water resources management unattended and intensifying water challenges, contrary to the day’s theme, Nature for Water, which aims at finding nature-based solutions to the challenges.
The study, based on the findings of the Cadastral Survey records and the Revisional Settlement records, Bangladesh had open water bodies spanning 40,47,000 hectares and closed water bodies spanning 3,51,000 hectares. A loss of about 45 per cent of the water bodies seems, therefore, concerning. Rivers have been grabbed and narrowed, canals, ponds, tanks and coastal polders have been grabbed over time. The situation calls out the government, or any government for that matter, on stopping, on being stringent enough, rising above partisan interest, to stop water bodies from being developed for housing, chocked for sand mining and harmed for other purposes. In a situation continuing like this, Bangladesh might soon hurtle to a disaster in meeting water challenges. As some government officials have their hands in manipulating the land records, which primarily helps people having financial and political clout to lay their hands on water bodies, the government should look into the issue in earnest. The government should take stock of the existing water bodies, match the findings with the past records, find people responsible for such manipulations and hold them to accounts. A positive change in the situation is highly unlikely unless people involved in grabbing water bodies, within the government and outside, are deterrently punished.
The government must, therefore, seriously attend to the issue of law enforcement regarding the protection of water bodies and must work out a well-thought-out master plan to stop further encroachment on the water bodies and to effect the reclamation of water bodies that have already fallen, illegally and unlawfully, into private hands. Any further delay might stand the country deep into water challenge related to flooding, drought and water pollution. A situation like this will entail a heavy cost on the country and the people.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Editorial