Environmentalists and locals have made a call to the government to save the river Buriganga from pollution and encroachment, aiming to protect the environment of the capital Dhaka.

Terming Buriganga the lifeline of the capital, they also have called for taking effective measures to save the river with the participation of policy makers, politicians, bureaucrats, local government bodies, locals, media people and social organisations.

They came up with the observations at the inaugural session of an event, titled 'Buriganga River Carnival', organised by the Waterkeepers Bangladesh Consortium in collaboration with the USAID and the Counterpart International (CPI) at Muslimbagh Tower ground in the capital's Kamrangirchar on Saturday.

The participants at the event said that the capital Dhaka is being surrounded by Buriganga, Balu, Turag and Sithalakhya rivers.

But those rivers are now being polluted and encroached by a section of influential people, ignoring the environmental and health issues, they said.

The participants said that the river Buriganga has been encroached due to unplanned urbanisation and indiscriminate industrialisation on both sides of the river.

The waste from over a hundred dying factories at Shyampur (Dhaka) and tanneries in Old Dhaka, coupled with the pollution caused by the river vessels and human solid waste, has been polluting the river, they maintained.

Buriganga, which demarcates the southwest extent of Dhaka city, is one of the most polluted rivers in Bangladesh.

Expressing concerns, speakers at the event said that Buriganga has become biologically and hydrologically dead because of the indiscriminate dumping of domestic and industrial waste as well as encroachment by the unscrupulous people.

To them, industries and factories have mushroomed on the bank of the river without setting up proper waste treatment plant, thus causing pollution of the river.

They said that urban sewage of Dhaka city is also thrown in the river, contributing to the sedimentation and drying up of the river.

Over the years, landfills created on the bank of the river have narrowed its width, they mentioned.

The participants of the carnival recommended taking adequate measures to ensure the navigability of the river and stop the encroachment.

Speaking on the occasion, lawmaker advocate Qamrul Islam claimed that encroachment of rivers, including Buriganga, started during the regime of Ershad and later it became very common during the BNP government.

He, however, admitted that a section of people using the ruling party's name are also polluting and encroaching on the river.

He vowed to take stern legal actions against the river encroachers.

River encroachers have no political identity, said Mr Qamrul, adding that the river encroachers will not get government protection.

It took 40 years to make the Thames River in London free from pollution; it even took time to free Hwang Ho River in China from encroachment, said the lawmaker, "We will free the river Buriganga from encroachment at any cost."

Environment and human rights activist Sultana Kamal also called upon the government to take effective steps so that land grabbers could not grab and pollute the river Buriganga.

Chief Engineer of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority Rafiqul Islam Talukder, Waterkeepers Bangladesh Consortium Coordinator Sharif Jamil, representatives of USAID and local ward councillors, among others, spoke on the occasion.

After the inaugural session of the programme, decorated boats cruised from Thota to Kholamora gudara ghat across the river.

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