We are heartened by the Anti-Corruption Commission's (ACC) request to the cabinet secretary to give directives to district deputy commissioners (DCCs) to save rivers from encroachers by taking legal action against them. The move demonstrates how serious the ACC considers this issue, echoing the sentiments of the public and the High Court which has defined rivers as "living beings" and killing them through river grabbing and waste dumping as "collective suicide".
This paper, as part of its commitment to saving our rivers, has published innumerable reports on how different rivers have been virtually killed due to illegal grabbing or indiscriminate dumping of untreated industrial effluents and solid waste. On February 07, our supplement titled "Save Rivers, Save Sonar Bangla" highlighted the grim condition of our country's rivers and the immediate need to take action to reverse the killing of our rivers as part of the commemoration of "Mujib Barsha", the birth centenary of Bangabandhu. The supplement has cited the recent report of the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC), which gives a clear picture of the precarious condition the lifelines of our country are in. The NRCC has found that the number of rivers has come down from 700 (in pre-independence times) to 405 at present, with many of them under threat due to illegal encroachment. The statistics the report cites are in fact, quite staggering: 139 rivers in 64 districts are encroached upon, 29 rivers are severely polluted, with all four surrounding Dhaka declared biologically dead.
It is frustrating that, despite continuous reports in the media, innumerable directives given by the courts and most importantly, despite the Prime Minister's asking her government to take action against river grabbers as well as many government projects worth several hundred crores of taka to revive the rivers, we are still witnessing regular grabbing of rivers and their painful demise. It is obvious that the collusion between river grabbers and corrupt officials is a major obstacle that must be removed forever if we are to save our rivers.
We are hopeful that the ACC's request to the cabinet secretary will be taken positively and will result in a vigorous initiative by our district deputy commissioners in each district to evict the illegal encroachers of rivers and take legal action against them. Here, we appeal again to our Prime Minister to directly intervene to save our rivers.