Praising the High Court verdict that recognised rivers as living entities, speakers at a conference yesterday said people should come forward to protect the rights of rivers.
They said people need to be more active to protect rights of rivers, as the High Court judgement alone is not enough to ensure that.
They came up with the observation at the closing ceremony of the two-day 5th International Water Conference 2020 arranged by ActionAid Bangladesh at a hotel in Kuakata, Patuakhali.
Prof Dr Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University’s International Relations department, said, “The law and the court say the rivers are living entities. Such judgement gives people the courage they need.”
He further said, “We’ve got this judgement through advocacy for many years. With this verdict, people will be able to play a more meaningful role in protecting the rights of rivers.”
Dr Imtiaz said the change of mindset about rivers is also the responsibility of people. “This change will come through research and advocacy. Legislation is not a permanent solution,” he added.
ActionAid Bangladesh believes that the lives of marginalised people are being hampered by river grabbing and pollution, and therefore it is important to work on this issue with a holistic approach, said its Country Director Farah Kabir, adding “One of the objectives of this conference is to raise public awareness about this issue.”
Rahima Sultana Kajal, executive director of local NGO Avas, said the water conference is an attempt to unite those who are thinking about working with water and the environment.
Osman Bin Nasser, senior officer of ActionAid Bangladesh, said, “All the directives of the High Court need to be followed by all concerned. River encroachment or polluting those is a punishable offence as per law. Since a river itself is not capable of suing anyone, any person can file a case under this law if any river is encroached.”
On the final day, researchers presented studies on water and river issues, such as the use of waterways in future communication systems, research on the river Halda, water pollution and water quality assessment of the Padma, and management of sustainable drinking water centres.
A total of nine papers were presented in the two-day conference, participated by researchers from home and abroad.