A picture published in this paper on March 14 depicts the Surma River in Sylhet city's Kazirbazar where garbage litters its banks. Regrettably, that is the state of most of the rivers in the country. Bangladesh, blessed with so many rivers, is facing not only an onslaught by river grabbers and encroachers, lack of awareness amongst the general populace who wilfully and callously dump all sorts of waste in the canals and rivers which ultimately end up choking rivers and canals, is equally to blame. The high point in the fight against encroachers came with the recent High Court verdict that has directed the authorities to act against these unscrupulous entities and also empower the National River Protection Commission (NRPC), which would act as the lead body in protecting the rivers.
However, laws alone cannot protect rivers. People have to take responsibility for their actions too. Seldom do we see, beyond the campaigns conducted by green activists, any national effort to educate people that they can help protect their lifeline. Every canal and river in the country has been facing the problems associated with garbage, primarily polythene bags, which happens to be banned but is available in abundance, ending up choking the life out of our waterways. While the NRPC is a step in the right direction, people need to be made aware of the fact that they cannot take rivers for granted. We are blessed, much more than many other countries with abundant sources of sweet water. However, our deliberate and destructive actions will put the lives of our future generations at great risk, if not stopped immediately.