Habiganj’s lifeline ceasing to exist
There was a time when the Jujnal river used to be the lifeline of Habiganj. Boats used to ply the river with goods and passengers, facilitating agriculture, trade and communication simultaneously.
However, this has ceased to be the reality in recent years, due to rampant encroachment, filling and pollution.
The river, which originated from Khowai river and is situated at Mirpur Bazar in Habiganj's Bahubol upazila, is currently nothing short of a garbage dump. Illegal structures stand on both sides of the river, while part of the river is the victim of constant filling, making it look like nothing more than a mere canal.
During monsoons, the slopes of the river are flooded with dirt and polythene, causing it to remain dead during the dry season.
During a recent visit, this correspondent found traders from the adjacent Mirpur Bazar, along with locals, throwing garbage on the riverside indiscriminately. The area emanates a horrible stench without a garbage disposal facility around.
Besides, there are houses and other establishments by the market's traders on both sides of the river. Many of the owners of these establishments have been illegally occupying the riverside for generations.
Minhaj Uddin, a resident of Mirpur area, said all kinds of garbage, including remains from slaughtered cows and goats, garbage from raw markets and business establishments, are being dumped into the river.
"No one can move through the space because of the smell. If the administration took appropriate measures, the river could be saved. We could be saved," he added.
Khowai River Waterkeeper Tofazzal Sohel said a certain section, fueled with greed, has been behind the dying state of the Jujunal.
"It is absolutely necessary to dredge the river and ensure its normal flow," he added.
Abdul Karim Chowdhury, member of the executive committee of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa), said, "When I visited the river recently, I saw the market people setting up open toilets on the riverbank."
"According to locals, the filth in Jujunal eventually falls into different connecting rivers, including the Meghna," he added.
"A couple of years ago, it was decided in the Upazila Parishad meeting that a designated space will be allocated for garbage dumping in the area. However, there was no follow-up on the matter. The river, as a result, has lost its navigability and turned into a canal," said ATM Mahmudul Islam Yusuf, president of Mirpur Byabsayee Samiti.
Prof Zahir Bin Alam of civil and environmental engineering at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (Sust), said if the river is dredged properly, it will not be beneficial.
"There remains a danger that the bottom will be filled up again," said Prof Zahir.
Contacted, Bahubol UNO Mohua Sharmeen Fatema said, "While digging this river, our people faced some obstacles and so, we could not continue the work. However, after I took office, no trader from the market came to me with any complaint regarding the issue."
Badrul Huda, assistant director of the Department of Environment (DoE) in Moulvibazar, said, "I will take necessary action after visiting the spot."