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Community leaders pledge to protect Buriganga River from further pollution

  • Published at 09:20 pm September 18th, 2021
buriganga river waste
Pile of waste dumped by the city corporation staff and locals is seen on the bank of the Buriganga River Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Waterkeepers Bangladesh has been working to make the Buriganga pollution-free since 2009

People need to be more careful about reducing pollution of the Buriganga River, and the community leaders can play a pivotal role to create awareness, speakers have told a discussion.

The meeting discussed the responsibilities and duties of the civil society in saving the Buriganga River from pollution and bringing it back to life, according to a press release by the Waterkeepers Bangladesh Consortium issued on Saturday.

The citizens' meeting was held at Nawabganj Park in Lalbagh, and attended by five sitting councilors of the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) from wards 14, 23, 24, 29, and 56; leaders of several community organizations linked to environmental protection; ruling party leaders of Old Dhaka and academicians. 

The event -- held as part of a series of meetings under the Anti-Pollution Advocacy Project -- was chaired by former DSCC councilor and General Secretary of Dhaka Metropolitan south unit of Awami League Md Humayun Kabir. Sharif Jamil, coordinator of Waterkeepers Bangladesh and general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa), was the keynote speaker at the discussion. 

Waterkeepers Bangladesh has been working to make the Buriganga River pollution-free since 2009.

In his speech, Humayun Kabir said that in order to bring the Buriganga back to its previous course, the land of the river had to be measured according to the CS records formulated during the British period. 

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"If the court's verdict is followed properly, it will be possible to return the Buriganga to its previous position. We will start working to protect all the rivers of the country and it will start the Buriganga River,” he added.

Sharif Jamil stressed the need for continuing development activities protecting the environment, citing that there were conspiracies to destroy the country's tannery sector by highlighting the river pollution issue. 

"But the leather processing units can operate and strengthen the economy by setting up ETPs and through proper management of solid waste," he said, adding that the British decontaminated the Thames River, which had been more polluted than the Buriganga.

Waterkeepers Bangladesh Consortium is implementing the project with the Department of Geography and Environment at Jahangirnagar University, and the Department of Environmental Sciences under Stamford University’s Centre for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS), under the guidance of the USAID, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and the Counterpart International.

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In his introductory speech, Prof Dr Ahmed Kamruzzaman Majumdar, chairman of the Environmental Sciences Department of Stamford University, observed that there were very few cities in the world surrounded by rivers. 

"But we are unable to protect nature's immense gift, the rivers around Dhaka. The environment cannot be protected alone. We all have to come forward," he added.

Ward No 14 Councilor Iliasur Rahman Babul, also the panel mayor of DSCC, recalled that they used to drink the water of the river, but now it cannot be made usable even after treatment.

Jahangir Alam Babul, councilor of ward No 29, expressed concern saying that the water level was going down while the pollution aggravated day by day. "We want to work together to save it from further degradation," he added.

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Mohammad Mokbul Hossain, councilor of ward No 23, and Md Hossain, councilor of ward No 56, echoed Jahangir Alam Babul. They emphasized carrying out more awareness campaigns to change the mindset of the mass people as well as the policymakers.

Ward 24 Councilor Mokaddes Hossain demanded that the authorities conduct drives regularly to dismantle and evict illegal structures and the land grabbers.

Among others, Amir Hassan Masud, president of Poribesh Andolon Moncho; Shohag Mohajan, president of Clean River Bangladesh; GM Rustam Khan, president of Sochetan Nagarbasi; Umme Salma, secretary general of Nirapod Chiktsya Chai; Nazim Uddin, president of Old Dhaka Citizens' Initiative; and Matiur Rahman Jamal, general secretary of Lalbagh unit Awami League also spoke at the program and pledged to work together to save the Buriganga River from further pollution.