People settled on the banks of the country's rivers have long been at the end of their tether. Beginning with encroachment on the age-old water flows and building of various structures on the grabbed shorelines, as well as other types of malpractices have made their lives miserable. Prominent of them is the freestyle pollution of river waters which makes life of people living on the two sides of rivers and those travelling on them miserable. The condition of the rivers has become so precarious that the victims are prepared to join any endeavour aimed at saving those. The call of environmental activists urging people to be vocal, thus, doesn't fail to make them proactive. However, such a unity lacks the required resolve.
The country's river situation has once again been re-enacted at an 11-country environment conference held recently in Dhaka. Notwithstanding its focus on the environment in general, the conference highlighted in detail the adversities facing the country's rivers over the last couple of decades. In the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, which may have a link to ecological degradation, the environment-cum-river conference couldn't have been timelier. Held on December 27, 28, 29, the event marked the 4th International Conference on Bangladesh's Environment. It was jointly organised by Bangladesh Environment Movement (BAPA), and Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN). Among others, chief guest of the concluding session Planning Minister MA Mannan stressed the importance of protecting the environment. He called the task one of the big concerns for the government.
The grand conference witnessed the presentation of a total of 150 papers in its 18 general sessions. Some 50 scientists from 11 countries participated in the event. Besides, there were environmental experts, researchers and professionals, along with environment and social workers. As has been expected, the country's rivers eventually emerged as the centre-piece of the conference. It became clear as the participating experts made the call for 'coordinated' efforts to save the rivers from reckless encroachment. In course of their discussion, they homed in on launching a social movement against river grabbing. As they said, they were also emphasising the imperative of ensuring a sound and liveable environment in the country.
In his speech, chairman of the National River Conservation Commission informed the conference of the preparation of a list of river-grabbers. He also referred to the scourge of yearly floods terming it another problem for Bangladesh. The commission chairman rightly emphasised the need for creating mass awareness about river protection. He was forthright in his observation that the government alone couldn't save the country's rivers. In this daunting task, support of the environmental organisations, the civil society and many others warrants prioritised consideration. Appraisals like this are made ritually at regular intervals. The good intent in them can be detected unerringly. But what deserves the highest level of urgency is infusion of honest activism in the plans being worked out. Protection of reserved forests and the over 750 rivers of the country warrants equal urgency. One could read the signs of waging an all-out war against grabbers by different government entities over the last one year. It should not stop halfway through. It's only the reckless attitude which breeds foolhardiness to undermine the impact of encroachments on nature.