THE pollution of and encroachment on rivers have been a long-standing problem and the problem is more acute with rivers flowing around the capital and other urban areas. An indiscriminate dump of municipal and industrial waste and illegal occupation have constituted major threats to the rivers which episodic drives that the government has run failed to stop. In this context the High Court on Monday asked the authorities concerned to disconnect all utility connections to 231 factories illegally in operation on the banks of the Buriganga. The government has been asked to close down the factories, which run without environmental clearance and effluent treatment plants. The environment department on Sunday informed the court that it had identified 231 industries on an 18-kilometre stretch along the Buriganga that are non-compliant and responsible for river pollution. It is now the responsibility of the departments concerned to execute the court order by the stipulated time and stop river pollution.
The unresolved problem of municipal wastes being dumped into the Buriganga is another concern that the High Court order has addressed. There are more than 50 sewers connected to the river and the court asked the government to seal the openings and take preventive measures against municipal waste dumping. The court orders came on a public interest litigation writ petition filed in May 2010. Later in June 2011, the court issued a similar order asking the government to remove the sewers connected to the river. But the court orders have remained largely unimplemented. Not only are the authorities concerned are non-compliant, they even falsely reported to the court that pipelines of the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority ‘dump no human wastes into the Buriganga.’ The court also asked the DWASA managing director to explain his action in giving a false report to the court and failure to implement an order passed nearly a decade ago. The directives issued on the matter carry great significance in protecting the rivers and establishing the accountability of the supply water agency.
The failure of successive governments in protecting the Buriganga as well as other rivers is a failure to perform their mandated duty keeping to Article 18(A) of the constitution which states that the state will endeavour to protect and conserve rivers, wetland and forests. The government must, therefore, ensure that the supply water agency should implement the High Court directives with no further delay. It must also expedite the implementation of the sewerage master plan for Dhaka, which has proposed 11 sewage treatment plants in and around the capital city. A protracted implementation in this case will continue to encourage people to dump wastes into the river.
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