Let the water flow
THE photograph published in New Age on Saturday, which shows people dumping household garbage into the second canal of the river Buriganga, essentially exemplifies the indifference of not only the state but also to protection of natural water bodies in the capital Dhaka and elsewhere in Bangladesh. Suffice it to say, dumping of wastes leads to siltation and eventually constriction of natural flow of rivers and canals. Moreover, dumping of waste into rivers and canals has often more often than not turned out to be the prelude to encroachment of natural water bodies; thus, it would be hardly surprising if illegal structures are erected on the bank of the canal in the coming days.
Successive governments since independence have been criticised, rightly, for their apparently inherent indifference to the protection of rivers, canals and other natural water bodies. While the Buriganga, supposedly the lifeline of the capital, has long been under the spotlight for the relentless pollution and encroachment it has faced over the years, several other rivers, in and outside Dhaka, have had a similar fate. These rivers have come to be the glaring examples of the nature being sacrificed on the altar of human greed. Most importantly, these rivers have become constant reminders of the ruling elite’s sustained inability, if not unwillingness, to protect the environment.
As we have pointed out in these columns time and again, the ruling quarters, regardless of whichever political camp they belong to, have had to be jolted out of their slumber, if you will, into actions to save the Buriganga or the other rivers that flow around or through the city, by the highest judiciary on more occasions than one, in the wake of sustained efforts, including writ petitions, by green campaigners. In fact, whatever action that successive governments have taken so far to protect the Buriganga or, for that matter, most other natural water bodies, has largely come about under pressure from these individuals and groups that have hammered on the issue consistently, through mobilisation of public opinion and eliciting intervention from the highest judiciary.
Equally intriguing, and no less infuriating, has been the general lack of concern among the people at large about the well-being of the natural water bodies. Even those who rely primarily on the rivers and natural water bodies for their life and livelihood display a disturbing degree of indifference when it comes to their protection. While it is expected of the state and its manager, the government, to sustain initiatives round the year for protection of the rivers and, for that matter, the environment, society needs to become more aware of, and vocal about, their protection.
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