Water experts and environmentalists at a seminar in Dhaka yesterday observed that the government bodies often influence the water governance, which accelerates water pollution and illegal encroachment of water bodies in Bangladesh.
“Different ministries… Environment and Forests, and Shipping, even the Prime Minister’s Office directly or indirectly influence the water governance,” Dr Shahjahan Mondal, a professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), said at the seminar.
He was addressing a technical session on ‘Challenges of tackling river pollution, ensuring water quality monitoring and better sewerage management in India and Bangladesh.
The New Delhi-based research and advocacy body Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) jointly organized the knowledge sharing seminar on ‘Water and Waste’ at Planners' Tower in the capital with a view to discussing issues related to water and waste prevailing in Bangladesh and India.
Prof Dilip Kumar Dutta, a teacher of Khulna University, and general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa) Dr Abdul Matin made separate presentation on river management and water pollution. Urban planner Prof Dr Sarwar Jahan presided over the technical session.
In a power-point presentation, Dr Shahjahan Mondal said there are more than 3,000 encroachments in the six rivers surrounding Dhaka City, including Balu, Turag, Buriganga and Shitalakshya.
Depicting the present scenario of these rivers, he said the water flow of the rivers has decreased over the years due to sedimentation and disposal of solid wastes.
Dr Shahjahan said natural resources, including fish and aquatic life, are at stake, and skin-diseases, diarrhea and dysentery are on the rise among the people living in the river basin due to unchecked water pollution.
The country’s institutional setup is not effective in ensuring effective water governance, and checking water pollution and river grabbing, he added.
Dr Abdul Matin said the Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) has the capacity of managing only 30 percent of toilet discharges and the rest goes to rivers around Dhaka City.
Side by side, he said, the Dhaka City Corporations (DCCs) have the capacity of disposing 45 percent of municipal waste and the rest remains in and around the roadside bins. Often those wastes are thrown into the roadside drains that end up in the rivers.
Referring to a government study, Dr Matin said about 60 percent of pollution in Balu, Turag, Buriganga, Shitalakshya, Bangshi, Dhaleswary and Tongi Khal are caused by industries, followed by WASA and DCCs 30 percent and the rest by others.
“River pollution is violating the people’s right to safe water and livable environment. Rivers are not pipelines, these are our lifelines. We must protect the rivers,” the Bapa general secretary said.
Chaired by BIP president Prof Dr Golam Rahman, the inaugural session of the seminar was earlier addressed by CSE program director (water program) Nitya Jacob and BIP general secretary Khondaker M Ansar Hossain.