Poor show of river protection in Bangladesh as agencies go weak

Published: 00:00, Nov 20,2019 | Updated: 00:31, Nov 20,2019


THE High Court’s order of Sunday for the Department of Environment to close 27 establishments on the bank of the River Buriganga is welcome in that the establishments, erected without environmental clearance, keep polluting the river. The department needs to close the 16 textile and dyeing factories, nine metal factorials and two private hospitals on a stretch from Sadarghat to Shyampur in 15 days. The court also directed the department to close 11 other industries if they fail to set up effluent treatment plants in three months. The court asked the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority managing director to explain in 15 days why action would not be taken against him for submitting to the court a false report, which says that the agency’s sewers spanning 930 kilometres discharge no human wastes into the Buriganga or in wetland. The court further asked the managing director to explain why action would not be taken against him for failures to stop the discharge of human wastes into the Buriganga keeping to court order of June 1, 2011.

The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, which is one of the keepers of the rivers, informed the court, as New Age reported on Tuesday, that it had published notices in newspapers asking the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority to remove 56 sewers that open into the river and owners of the factories concerned to remove their outlets that discharge wastes into the Buriganga. It appears that the Inland Water Transport Authority is unwilling to act to its mandate on its own in saving the river. The agency is also seen earlier not to have been resolute enough in pulling down structures, not even the ones that are erected illegally, on the bank of the Buriganga, as the media reported from time to time. Other relevant agencies and district administrations also appear to have followed in the footsteps of the Inland Water Transport Authority. All this betrays a bias of the government agencies that is meant to protect moneyed interest. Especially the Department of Environment seems to be too feeble to protect the rivers and other water bodies not just in and around the capital city but also across the country. The environment department is seen to have rarely risen on its own to the occasion and such action has been so rare that it hardly leaves any impact on the conservation of nature, rivers and water bodies included, as a whole.

Besides, all the furore about the protection of the Buriganga involves the establishments, illegal or legal, on the bank that borders on the city and spanning certain stretches. The erection of illegal structures has taken place along other stretches and on the outer bank of the Buriganga. The government must, therefore, ask, or empower, relevant agencies to pull down structures that are harmful for the rivers and to conserve them.

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