Published:  12:52 AM, 08 August 2017

Prime Minister's river thoughts

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed the relevant authorities to keep the four rivers around the nation's capital pollution free. That is as it should be, given that in the past couple of decades or so rivers around Dhaka have not only become polluted but as a result have also posed difficulties to smooth navigation. There is too the fact that in a very large number of instances, there has been a narrowing of rivers to a point where they have often begun to resemble streams. Add to that the bad odour that is the result of the clean water of the rivers turning blackish and poisonous. One can mention here the Buriganga, a mighty river that today is hostage to all manner of pollution.

The Prime Minister's emphasis on keeping the rivers free of pollution should be followed through with another essential component, which is that they should also be free of the predatory instincts that have for decades been characteristic of men. Rivers have been encroached upon and not just in the urban regions.

All over the country, there have been all the unsavoury elements, many of them with loyalties to political parties, who have not been averse to occupying river banks and filling them with sand and soil and claiming such occupied segments as their own property. Many have been the efforts to recover our rivers from the grasping hands of these elements, but the success rate has been dismal. The reason of course has to do with political influence as well as the plain diabolical nature of men.

It therefore makes sense to agree with the Prime Minister and also expect her government to issue the necessary instructions to the authorities to not only save the rivers but also to deal with a heavy hand with those who have been polluting and occupying them. Besides, the need for a recovery of rivers is not only to be felt in Dhaka but in the interior of the country as well. Rivers are our traditional lifeline as well as part of our national heritage in terms of culture and heritage. It is therefore of paramount significance that they be preserved and where encroached upon be seized back from the hands of those who have with impunity stolen them.

One last word: the Prime Minister's instructions about keeping the four rivers around Dhaka free of pollution must be followed by speedy action. In a society where all too often directives are easily forgotten and circumstances remain the same, it is necessary that this time the head of government's directive be followed to the letter and the spirit.

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