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Saving water equals to saving environment

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Professor Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder and Anika Tahsin :
There is a line often said, "Bangladesh is the land of rivers". Well, what would you call a country, where more than 230 rivers have been following in its terrain. Not just flowing, but these rivers are playing a unique role in protecting the biodiversity of its surrounding. The rivers are also responsible for the livelihood of the people living around them. Though all the rivers in Bangladesh help its people and the environment in one way or the other, but the three biggest rivers, Padma, Meghna and Jamuna do help a bit more. Due to the low streaming of these three rivers in Bangladesh, every year huge amount of sediment deposit during the time of the flood. As a result of this, the financial condition, of the farmers and the common people of the country, remains subtle. Bangladesh has come a long way over the years. Especially in the industrial in the sector, in which 70 to 80 percent of industrial factories are located near the rivers. It is commonly seen, that many have settled down near the Karnaphuli, Buriganga, Shitalakshya and Turag rivers.
Due to the settlement of many big and small industries, around Buriganga and Shitalakshya in Dhaka, the rivers are getting polluted every day. The water from these rivers is being used in these industries. And the industrial water is also dumped into the same river, without any treatment. Although some industry treats the water they dump but according to a survey done by BCAS (Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies), these are 40% of the total there are. And in addition to that, among this 40%, many use their ETP in the balance chemically. According to BAPA (Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon), their survey on Buriganga shows there is a 13 feet long layer of polythene beneath the river. About 60% of this waste, comes from the factories and 30 from Dhaka WASA and city cooperation fall and deposit in the river. The scarcity sewage treatment plants highly contribute to these rivers being polluted. Even the commercial cities like Chittagong, dump their untreated sewage wastes into rivers.
These not only contain sanitary wastes but also many harmful metallic substances within it. Because of this, the river is no longer navigable, the aquatic beings have lost their habitat, the environment is being harmed and thus we will suffer.
Even the shifting of the Hazaribagh tannery industry did no good. Instead, Dhaleshwari River is now being murdered in exchange for Buriganga River. Water from the Earth's surface is increasingly being polluted because of the unplanned brick kiln construction.
Moreover, due to and the wrecking of the ships, that transport oil and other products, the ecology of the river is getting destroyed. According to a research by Department of Environmental science of Stamford University Bangladesh, the PH value of Karnaphuli River, at many points, showed very low, when measured.
What this means, is the acidity of the river water has increased. Unplanned governance and dredging of the rivers have caused their direction to change. If we give it a minute and think about all of this collectively, we will find human activities are the main cause of this change in the natural order. When we look for a cause, we find our work and our irresponsible action at its heart. About 1500 rivers have been last in the recent one thousand years, according to BAPA's information. Every year, on the 14th of March, 'International Day of Action for River' is being celebrated in order to decrease the threats against all the rivers in the world.
This day has been adopted by the participants of the first "International Meeting of People Affected by Dams", March 1997 in Curitiba, Brazil. Since then, every year on this day, Environmental Organizations, NGO's working for Environment and river-lovers all over the world the come together and raise their voices for the protection of the rivers. Since 2004, BAPA along with all the sister concerns has been celebrating this day, every year.
According to paragraph 9 of Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act (BECA) 1995, the provision of Punishment for any individual or organization that is responsible for releasing any kind of pollutant in the river is maximum 10 years imprisonment or a maximum fine of 10 lac taka. These rivers, are the heart and soul of Bangladesh. If anything that can save the rivers now, it's the conscience and the awareness of the common people and the industries. Even if we start now try, we can still save rivers like Shitalakshya and Karnaphuli.

(The writers are associated with teaching and research in Department of Environmental Science at Stamford University Bangladesh).

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