Bangladesh’s masterplans for protecting seven rivers unveiled

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ ANN) – The Bangladesh government last Sunday unveiled two decade-long masterplans to protect five rivers in Dhaka and two in Chattogram against grabbing and pollution, and enhance their navigability.

The masterplan on the Dhaka rivers – Buriganga, Turag, Balu, Dhaleswari and Pungli – proposes 24 primary and 180 supplementary measures, and includes 39 canals connected with these rivers. The one on Chattogram’s Karnaphuli and Halda suggests 45 primary and 167 supplementary measures.

Minister for Local Government Division Md Tajul Islam revealed the masterplans through a press conference at the Bangladesh Secretariat. He said nine causes of pollution were identified in the plans, and measures are underway to prevent release of industrial and domestic waste into the rivers.

According to the plans, the conservation measures include one year of crash programmes, three years of short-term programmes, five years of mid-term programmes and a decade of long-term programmes. Actions will also be directed at analysing the status of the tributaries and canal networks of the said rivers in adjoining districts.

National River Commission Chairman Muzibur Rahman Howlader said the masterplans, which were prepared on review of the on-going river projects by different ministers, cite time bound actions and specify the role of each authority.

Bangladesh lost 16,400 kilometres of waterways due to negligence and lack of supervision. – THE DAILY STAR/ANN

“It’s a good beginning but I think it will require a lot of discussion among the executing authorities and the river commission during implementation.”

Contacted for her remarks, Chief Executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) Syeda Rizwana Hasan, who has been campaigning for river protection and moved several public interest litigations on the cause over the years, said, “I do not know anything about such masterplans.”

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the masterplans on July 12 and asked the ministries and departments concerned to launch their own programmes for implementation of the plans without delay, said high officials at the press conference.

Following an ECNEC decision on June 14 in 2016, a committee was formed to prepare the masterplans. The team comprised the Local Government Division minister as Chief, Director General (Administration) of the country’s Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as Member-Secretary and representatives of river-related ministries as members.

Later, two technical sub-committees – one led by the Director General (Administration) of the PMO and the other by Chattogram Port Authority Chairman – drafted the masterplans and submitted them to the ministerial committee.

State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, Local Government Division Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed and Water Resources Secretary Kabir bin Anwar, among others, were present at the press conference.