Empowering the river commission is essential to save rivers across the country, as most of the commission's recommendations have remained unimplemented, said speakers at a discussion yesterday.
Speaking at the Jatiya Press Club, Sharif Jamil, joint secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa), said: “NRCC [National River Conservation Commission] was formed to protect rivers, but it was not given legal and institutional capacities, which are essential to protect rivers. Due to this, though the commission has good intention to protect rivers, they are not capable to do so under existing government system.”
Bapa, Buriganga Riverkeeper and NRCC jointly organised the discussion on pollution in the rivers around Dhaka.
Sharif, also the river-keeper of Buriganga, said to protect the rivers of the country, the commission will have to be strong legally as well as in administrative capacity.
Addressing the programme as chief guest, Dr Muzibur Rahman Howlader, chairman of NRCC, said they can only make recommendations to authorities concerned but cannot take action against river grabbers or polluters. If the commission had the power to take action, they would demolish illegal encroachments from the rivers.
He said they have been given an important work by the government to save rivers, but they need the power to take action against grabbers and polluters when stakeholders fail to take action.
Muzibur said there are necessary laws to protect rivers but there is no execution.
Around 6,000 fishermen of Barogram are now jobless and many have left the village to seek new professions due to the pollution in Norai, Debdholai and Balu rivers, said Suruj Miah, president of Barogram Unnayan Shangstha.
Though tanneries in Hazaribagh were shifted to Savar, 50 to 60 factories are still continuing their operation there, which is polluting the river Buriganga, said Sohag Mohajon, general secretary of Dhaka Youth Club International.
Some dyeing factories at Shyampur are polluting Buriganga by discharging untreated waste, keeping the drainage line underground, he said.
Referring to 2008 data of the government, general secretary of Bapa Abdul Matin said 60 percent pollution of the rivers is done by industrial organisations, 30 percent by Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, and rest 10 percent is done by general people.
Urging everyone to be united against land grabbers, he said though there was a directive from the High Court to set up demarcation pillars, it was not done properly and many of them were erected into the river due to political pressure.
Among others, Md Alauddin and Sharmeen Murshid, members of NRCC; Md Zahidul Islam Bhuiya, chairman of Dhalla Union Parishad, Shingair; and Shamsul Haque, general secretary of Nadi o Paribesh Unnayan Shagnstha, Trimohoni also addressed the programme.