Green activist and freedom fighter M Hamid Ranju said that government agencies including Tannery Industrial Park, Dhaka Export Processing Zone and Savar municipality continue to pollute the Bangshi and the Dhaleshwari rivers while ruling party leaders grabbed them at Savar and Dhamrai.
He said that they asked the Department of Environment and other government agencies time and again to take actions against the agencies and other industries mostly set up on the rivers and canals since the 1990s, but the agencies failed to make a move.
Though the government has prepared a list of 65 grabbers, mostly consisting of leaders of ruling Awami League, no eviction driver was conducted against them, he said.
A resident of Genda, a village near Dhaleswari River (where is the name of the river?), Ranju said that when he was a school student he used to bathe in the river with others and farmers used the river water for cultivation and other purposes.
He recalled the old memories that thousands of the riverine people depended on river, specially the fishermen and bede people, a nomadic community who live in boats.
Now people cannot even touch river water since it could be a source of skin diseases, he said.
‘Once the rivers worked as a lifeline of the communities, which is no more the case following their death due to pollution,’ he said.
He said that there were a number of cases regarding pollution that needed to be addressed on a priority basis but the government remained indifferent in stopping pollution.
Besides water pollution, people of the area were suffering from diseases due to air pollution from over 300 brick kilns at Savar, he added.
Ranju said that due to pollution crop production reduced drastically.
Once the tidal rivers Dhaleswari and Bangshi as well as the Buriganga at its upstream, served as river routes — major conduits for people to travel — but the tide suspended over the years due to grabbing and intensified pollution.
He said that thousands of industries like textile and dying factories discharging untreated effluent in the rivers and connecting canals like the Karnapara Khal and water bodies like Beel Bhaghil while the Department of Environment remained blind to these.
He blamed lack of political will of the government for such continuing pollutions.
The government was sheltering these offenders, who were mainly business people, ignoring the population affected by pollution, he pointed out.
Ranju, a septuagenarian, further argued that due to pollution lifestyles of many communities were changed and some of the communities dependent on rivers simply disappeared over the years.
Polluted rivers were getting further polluted due to the Tannery Park which was set up ignoring local people’s protest, he said.
‘The tanneries are polluting the Dhaleswari even the Buriganga, at six kilometres upstream,’ he said.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Interview