Bringing buoyancy to our rivers  

Shihab Sarkar   | Published: October 27, 2018 22:11:54 | Updated: October 28, 2018 21:01:18


The periodic boat races organised in different parts of the country speak a lot about our rivers: all of them have not dried up. Some are impressively capable of even hosting boat races. This undying sport points to two things: rural Bangladesh still keeps the tradition of one of its earliest entertainments alive, and the rivers have not completely disappeared from the village-based life. Locally called 'Nouka Baich', boat races in Bangladesh cannot be thought of without rivers having certain levels of depth. The races organised almost annually in different rivers of the country witness rowing boats speed past others in competition mostly during monsoon. It boils down to the fact that the rivers still have the capability to get back to their sprightly form. Although a lot of the over 700 rivers and their branches in the country have long shrunken into narrow streams, many can still be given a new lease of life. The fact is also applicable to the dying rivers flowing along the peripheries of Dhaka. Apart from the Buriganga, they include the Balu, the Turag and the Shitalakkhya. Of the four, only Buriganga sees a gala boat race every year.

Ironically enough, despite the river's hosting of colourful boat races, the Buriganga has been declared completely unfit for survival of aquatic lives. Fishes have long deserted the river. Yet the river holds promise as its water becomes fit for human use during monsoon. What it badly needs is putting a halt to its reckless pollution.

The case is different with the other rivers organising boat races, or getting back their monsoon navigability. Although these rivers remain dried up in places, they get back their natural vibrancy during the rains. Although this resurgence is brief, people living on the banks of these rivers make the best of it. The rivers which witness boat races regularly include the Surma, the Kushiyara, the Titas, the Rupsa, Chitra etc. In the greater Dhaka region, the Dhaleshwari, the Ichhamoti are used to seeing exciting boat races. The link between the liveliness of a river and a sporting event like boat races is nothing extraordinary. But it could be a pointer to the present state of the country's rivers, mostly vulnerable to various man-made hazards.

Bangladesh can still take pride in its rivers. Letting the country's rivers turn derelict and dying, and condoning the acts of grabbing river banks by local influential people assumes the proportions of criminal apathy. This, in fact, takes the form of a sad commentary on the level of the people's ties to nature-here rivers.

To our ill luck, there have been few steps to sensitise people to the need of saving rivers. The city-based awareness campaigns and the ritualistic advocacy programmes have only detracted from the seriousness of the nationally critical issue.

shihabskr@ymail.com

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