Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Waterways disappear as rivers die

World River Day today

Rashad Ahamad

Inland waterways, once the prime mode of transportation in Bangladesh, have declined fast as many rivers, canals, and other water bodies have disappeared in riverine Bangladesh over the past decades.

Due to geographical location, inland waterways were the main mode of transportation in Bangladesh, a country part of the largest delta in the world, but that mode has changed due to erroneous policies in communication development, experts said.

The authorities had destroyed the popular, cheap and safer waterways and instead had expanded only road transportation, facilitating the deaths of many rivers, they said.

In this context, World River Day will be observed across the country today. The day is observed across the world on the fourth Sunday of September.

The River and Delta Research Centre chairman, Mohammad Azaz, blamed river grabbing and pollution, water scarcity from upstream and climate change for decreasing water transportation in Bangladesh.

Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, state minister for shipping, claimed that governments after 1975 followed a wrong transport development policy, allowing waterways to shrink.

He claimed that successive governments’ ‘business-oriented transportation plan’ prioritised the road while ignoring rail and waterways.’

He stated that Bangladesh used to have 24,000 kilometres of waterways, but this number has now drastically decreased.

‘Awami League government is now working to make 10,000 km of waterways as per our election pledge,’ he said.

He also said that they had dredged 53 rivers already and that the dredging work in some rivers was in progress as the government had bought 50 heavy dredgers and initiated the process of procuring 35 more. Several sea ports and 35 river ports were upgraded.

The government has adopted the Delta Plan 2100 with a special focus on rivers.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority statistics showed that in 1975, there were 223 river routes and about 8,489 kilometres of navigable waterways in the rainy season in Bangladesh and 5,287 kilometres in the dry season.

At present, about 5,900 kilometres of waterways are navigable in the rainy season and only about 3,800 kilometres of waterways are navigable in the dry season on 188 routes.

Amid the reality, Bangladesh is set to observe World River Day with the theme ‘Waterways in Our Community’ emphasising both protecting rivers and restoring waterways.

RDRC chairman Azaz said that over 500 rivers in the country disappeared in the past 50 years, while the number of canals that disappeared was much higher, with no study available.

The National River Conservation Commission reported 770 rivers across the country. According to RDRC, the number was 1,274 during the war of independence in 1971.

Jahangirnagar University urban planning professor Adil Mohammad Khan blamed professionals for accepting the wrong development policies of the government and development partners.

‘Just see, in Dhaka, box-culverts were made by blocking canals,’ he said, citing an example.

He also said that many unnecessary roads were constructed in the haor areas, where people once mostly used boats for transportation.

‘Embankment to control flooding also restricted vessel movement,’ he said.

He said that as rivers were not in use, they lost navigability, were grabbed, polluted and eventually died.

Green activists said that the Local Government Engineering Department and the Roads and Highways Department have constructed most of their bridges and culverts, narrowing rivers and decreasing navigability.

Flat bridges and culverts restrict boat movement in local waterways.

Abdus Sattar, once a boatman who used to carry goods from Ghatail in Tangail to different destinations including Mymensingh, Dhaka, and Narayanganj, said that after the construction of a low-height flat bailey bridge on the Jheenuk River, he had to sell his boat as he couldn’t move under the bridge.

The Jheenuk River, a branch of the Jamuna River, flowing over Bhuyapur and Ghatail, is now all but dead. There is no water flow in the river in the dry season. Domestic and industrial waste polluted the river, where hardly any fish is now available, said Sattar.

‘I made my living as a boatman until the bridge came here in 1995. I tried to remain in the profession even after few more years. Later, I switched to farming,’ said Sattar.

The LGED claims to have built 36,311 bridges to complete its 330,831 kilometres road network across the country, while the RHD claims to have built 4,404 bridges and 14,814 culverts in its 22,418 km length of 992 roads.

Green activist M Hamid Ranju said that he used to go to Mirpur in Dhaka from Genda of Savar by boat even in the 90s, carrying goods with other traders.

He said that his mode of transportation has changed since Bill Bagheel choked and dried out being left uncared for and the expansion of the Dhaka-Aricha Highway.

He said that at one time, every family in his area owned at least one boat. Now motorcycles or cars have replaced boats in many families.

The National River Conservation Commission chairman, Manjur A Chowdhury, said that alongside illegal grabbing and earth-filling, some transboundary issues were also behind the death and disappearance of rivers and waterways in Bangladesh.

He explained that many rivers were silted for lack of water as the water flow was restricted upstream.

The commission has identified 60,000 river grabbers so far across the country.

Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association chief executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said that in the name of road network development, the rivers and canals were killed in a planned way.

Professor Emeritus and river expert Ainun Nishat said that any action that harms the river and its natural environment was illegal and also a violation of the constitution.

‘But it is happening continuously,’ he said. ‘The officials of LGED and RHD responsible for the action should be brought to book,’ he added.

The Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon general secretary, Sharif Jamil, said that if the waterways could be protected, the rivers and canals would remain protected.

‘A river is part of an ecosystem. It is a lifeline, a livelihood and many more. With the death of many rivers, everything collapsed,’ he said.

Article originally published on New Age

Related News

Stakeholders on St. Martin’s demand stringent action against plastic pollution

Environment Desk : dhakamirror.com Stakeholders have stressed that raising awareness alone is not enough to tackle plastic pollution on the country’s only coral island, Saint Martins, and are advocating for restrictions on plastic use and penalties for non-compliance. At a panel discussion entitled “Plastic Free St Martins” on Wednesday, they called for strict limits on ... Read more

Amazon deforestation down by a third in 2023, says Brazilian government

Environment Desk : dhakamirror.com Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon fell by 33.6% in the first six months of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term compared with the same period in 2022, the government says. Its suggests the rainforest shrank by 2,649 sq km this January-June, down from 3,988 sq km in those six months last ... Read more

Half of world’s largest lakes, reservoirs losing water, Study finds

News Desk : dhakamirror.com More than half of the world’s largest lakes and reservoirs have lost significant amounts of water over the last three decades, according to a new study, which pins the blame largely on climate change, intensifying concerns about water for agriculture, hydropower and human consumption. According to a team of international researchers, ... Read more

Chattogram city produces 249 tonnes of plastic waste every day

Will generate 428 tonnes by 2052 News Desk : dhakamirror.com Chattogram city produces 249 tonnes of plastic waste every single day — 56 percent of which remains uncollected and littered in the environment, according to a new study. “Of the plastic waste, the most are sachets, single-use utensils, and personal care items, ” the study ... Read more

Non-stop river pollution threatens water security

World Environment Day Non-stop river pollution threatens water security Laws, rules, HC directives go in vain Rashad Ahamad No pragmatic step is yet to be taken to protect the four rivers surrounding Dhaka even after declaring them ecologically critical 13 years ago. In September 2009, the Department of Environment declared the four rivers Ecologically Critical ... Read more

Air pollution takes 3 years off life in Bangladesh

Impact on life expectancy in Bangladesh worse than in India, Pakistan, Bhutan Mohammad Al-Masum Molla Air pollution cuts the average life expectancy of a person in Bangladesh by almost three years, said a global report. It is higher than in India, Pakistan, Bhutan, and Afghanistan. Nepal, with air pollution-linked life expectancy loss of 3.05 years, ... Read more

Rain at the summit of Greenland for the first time on record

Something extraordinary happened recently. On August 14, 2021, it rained at the highest point on the Greenland Ice Sheet for several hours — the first rainfall event in recorded history, and air temperatures remained above freezing for about nine hours. The record-breaking rain is the latest in a string of warning signs about how climate ... Read more

Emissions of CO2 driving rapid oceans ‘acid trip’

The world’s oceans are becoming acidic at an “unprecedented rate” and may be souring more rapidly than at any time in the past 300 million years. In their strongest statement yet on this issue, scientists say acidification could increase by 170% by 2100. They say that some 30% of ocean species are unlikely to survive ... Read more

Warming trees limit warming – a little

Warmer temperature prompts trees to release aerosols which in turn stimulate cloud formation. And that can help to cool the temperature, at least modestly. Trees may provide the Earth with a little shade from global warming – indirectly. European and Canadian researchers report that they have found what engineers like to call a negative feedback ... Read more

Evaluating services of forest

Biodiversity contributes considerably to economy and environment Dr. M. A. BASHAR In developing countries, the necessity of publicising services of forests is severely lacking. This sector must be given attention with special emphasis. The country like Bangladesh has to be very serious in all respects to understand and exercise the services offered by the forests. We ... Read more

What the outcome yields for Bangladesh?

Doha Climate Conference What the outcome yields for Bangladesh? Md. Mahfujur Rahman Thirty-seven industrialized countries had been accused of releasing Greenhouse gases in Kyoto Protocol under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Signatory members to the UNFCCC have been meeting annually in Conference of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with ... Read more

Down with the hills!

Probir Kumar Sarker Though Bangladesh is prominently a plain land, its Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Bandarban and Sylhet have hilly areas with forests and rich biodiversity. These areas are full of natural resources fulfilling needs of the people and other living species. But at present, the destruction of hills in every area has become ... Read more

A prerequisite for sustainable development

Natural Resource Governance A prerequisite for sustainable development Rukshana Sultana The constitution of Bangladesh — article 143– illustrates that all natural resources on land and underground minerals and other things of value underlying the ocean within the territorial waters, or the ocean over the continental shelf of Bangladesh, are the properties of Bangladesh. In general, ... Read more

Contemplating mitigation measures

Global Warming Contemplating mitigation measures Md. Atikur Rahman All things that make up the environment are interrelated. The way in which people, animals and plants are related to each other and to their surrounding is known as ecology. The ecosystem is a complex web that links animals, plants and every other life form in the ... Read more

Save Savar from further degradation

Probir Kumar Sarker Over the recent years, Savar is experiencing immense pressure of new industrial, commercial and residential establishments. But most of these have already been done or are underway indiscriminately haphazardly, and by violating the environmental laws and ignoring overall public convenience, not to speak of the care for future growth. It has been a ... Read more

Save Sonadia, save Sundarbans

Sourav Mahmud Sonadia Island is one of the biodiversity hotspot of Bangladesh. In 1995, the Government of Bangladesh included a provision for the declaration of Ecologically Critical Area (ECA) in the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act. Twelve sites are classified as ECAs and guidelines exist to control further damage to these areas. Sonadia is considered ecologically ... Read more

Ramsar Convention: Our obligation

Dr. M.A. Bashar It is learnt from newspapers very recently that in the Sundarbans area three large constructions will take place which are very dangerous and detrimental to normal functioning of the mangrove forest ecosystem. It means that the interactions between biotic and abiotic factors will be seriously hampered in the ecosystems conservation. The projects ... Read more

Legal response to loss and damage

Climate Change Legal response to loss and damage Hafijul Islam Khan The adverse impacts of climate change have continued to devastate the lives and livelihoods of millions of people and inflict large economic losses. According to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there has been a global increase in weather ... Read more

Corals of St.Martin’s at stake

Global Warming and Over-Exploitation Corals of St.Martin’s at stake Dr. Anisuzzaman Khan Honey comb corals around Saint Martin’s island are under stress due to coral bleaching. While the COP 17 — UN climate convention — was being held in Durban of South Africa, a Nature Watch Team (NWT) of Ekattor Television watched that a noticeable ... Read more

Environment: Future farmers hold key

GLOBAL food demand will double by 2050, according to a new projection, and the farming techniques used to meet that unprecedented demand will significantly determine how severe the impact is on the environment,  researchers say. The study researchers warn that meeting the demand for food will clear more land, increase nitrogen use and significantly add ... Read more