Stop constant onslaught on our rivers
It is deeply disturbing to see the fate of most of our rivers – they are continuously being grabbed, polluted or filled up by powerful quarters while the relevant authorities do nothing to protect them. We were dumbfounded to see the picture of one such river published in this daily yesterday, which shows a stretch of the Harihar River at Swaranpur village in Jashore's Manirampur upazila that local influentials have occupied and divided into at least 50 small ponds by building dams for fish farming. The 45km river, which was once a source of livelihood to the local people, now only serves the interest of a few who have reportedly grabbed most of it – for fish and paddy farming, sand lifting or other purposes. Sadly, according to news reports, the local authorities are doing nothing to recover the river from these grabbers.
Reportedly, the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) undertook a project in 2021, under which it only excavated a 15km stretch of the river. It now says that the remaining 30km would be excavated once another project is approved by the government. The BWDB also says that they will evict all the encroachers once the project work starts. However, it all seems like routine statements from the authorities, who always talk about protecting our rivers but hardly walk the walk.
In the last couple of years alone, we have seen many of our rivers getting grabbed by not only influential people, but also by the authorities who are empowered to protect them. We have seen how a road has been built through a river by brick kiln owners, how another river has been destroyed to build a highway, or how rivers in general have been used as waste-dumping grounds. And all this has been done despite there being specific High Court directives to protect them, and despite the court's declaration in 2019 that rivers are "living entities."
In the case of Harihar River, the BWDB should immediately identify the grabbers and evict them. If needed, the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) should also step in so that this once flowing river can be a source of living for all the local residents.