Plan, one authority can save rivers
Leading environmentalist organisations and personalities yesterday made a set of recommendations including adopting a comprehensive action plan and forming a single authority to save the rivers and environment.
Representatives of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (Bela), Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa), Bangladesh Unnayan Parishad, and The Daily Star editor and publisher made the recommendations at a views exchange meeting with a parliamentary sub-committee at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.
The special sub-committee on forest and environment invited them to hear their views and recommendations on means to save the rivers and environment from pollution and encroachment.
Following the meeting, the sub-committee members said they will include the recommendations in their final report to be prepared by next month.
Sub-committee chief Awami League lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury said they will prepare a model to give new life to the polluted and dying rivers in light with revival of the Hugli in Kolkata and the Thames in London.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will give technical assistance in this initiative, he added.
The parliamentary standing committee on forest and environment ministry formed the four-member sub-committee to work out causes of the problems and solutions to save the rivers and environment.
The move followed a series of reports published in The Daily Star that showed the dire conditions of the rivers due to pollution and encroachment.
Bapa Vice-president Prof Abdullah Abu Sayeed recommended that the sub-committee take a concerted action plan and create a single organisation, which will look after environment and rivers.
"No single organisation is responsible to pollute rivers and environment. Tannery factories at city's Hazaribagh, dyeing factories, and Water Supply and Sewerage Authority are behind pollution. We need to take concerted efforts to address this issue," Prof Sayeed told reporters at the Jatiya Sangsad media centre after the meet.
Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Bangladesh Unnayan Parishad, said the government has to make a promise that it will protect the rivers and environment.
He also stressed the need for setting up a single authority to deal with environment and river issues.
The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam said, "We need a clear, transparent and comprehensive legal framework to save the rivers and environment."
He demanded a firm declaration from the government to protect the rivers and environment from pollution.
"We don't want a single inch of river banks to be grabbed or a single gallon of river waters to be polluted anymore," he said.
Bela Director (Programme) Syeda Rizwana Hasan said the environment issues did not get priority on the agenda of any governments. She recommended that the sub-committee take steps to amend the constitution giving priority to environment.
She added, "The existing laws are often not enough to protect our rivers and environment as we seldom see their strict application."
The Bela director recommended amending the laws, if necessary, to give exemplary punishment to offenders.