Protesting pollution and encroachment of four vital rivers including the Khowai, Old Khowai, Sutang and Sunai in Habiganj, environmental green activists yesterday formed a human chain by the Sutang river in Sadhubazar area of Habiganj Sadar upazila.
Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa) Habiganj unit and Khowai River Waterkeeper jointly organised the event, marking Earth Day that is celebrated worldwide on April 22.
Speaking with this correspondent, a number of locals, mostly landless farmers, said crop cultivation becomes almost impossible when the Sutang dries up during the dry season.
They all blamed the local influential people for the situation, saying that those people constricted the river’s water flow by encroaching or setting up factories on it.
Sheikh Md Kamal Mia, a resident in the area, said fish is no longer found in the river’s discoloured water -- thanks to dumping of toxic waste from factories.
Aminul Islam, coordinator of Green Voice, an environmental organisation in Habiganj town, said the severely polluted water of the river is now unusable in cultivation.
The factories on the bank of the river are also causing a serious air pollution, resulting in respiratory illnesses for people living nearby, said Dr Ali Ahsan Chowdhury Pintu, a resident of Habiganj town.
Advocate Shibli Khayer said pollution in the Khowai river has reached an alarming level as chemical waste is being dumped directly into the river from factories along its banks.
Bapa General Secretary in Habiganj Tofazzal Sohel said encroachers have turned the Sutang and Khowai, flowing by Habiganj town, into narrow canals and their water in those has become extremely toxic due to rampant dumping of industrial waste.
Contacted, Touhidul Islam, executive engineer of Water Development Board in Habiganj, said the district administration during drives in two phases already demolished 200 unauthorised structures on the Khowai and such drive will continue to free the river from encroachment.