It is hard to find anyone in Bangladesh who does not have any memory of a river. Someone may have a lot of memories of swimming in a river while someone else may have memories of journey by boat or launch on rivers. On the other hand, many of us also experience the cruel face of rivers during flood. But, memory of river is a common characteristic of the people of Bangladesh, a country crisscrossed by rivers.
Actually, the rivers of Bangladesh mark both the psychology of the nation and the life of the people. But, unfortunately, our memories of rivers are declining day by day. In this age of commercialisation we do not have enough time to pass a moment with rivers. Many of us struggle to recall our last memory of a river. The condition of most of the rivers is also very bad now. If we look back we will find that the state of our rivers has been worsening since we became callous regarding their condition.
To highlight the many values of rivers and to increase public awareness while encouraging the improved stewardship of rivers around the world, today, on the last Sunday of September, World Rivers Day is going to be observed in Bangladesh as well as the rest of world. The Day, established in 2005, is a global celebration of the world’s waterways. This Day has been endorsed by various agencies of the United Nations and is intended to complement the broader efforts of the United Nations Water for Life Decade.
Originally, World Rivers Day was based on the great success of BC Rivers Day, which started in 1980 in British Columbia, Canada. The BC event was founded by the acclaimed river conservationist Mark Angelo. This year, for the third time, World Rivers Day, with the theme “Revisit Your River,” is going to be observed in Bangladesh by a volunteer initiative to revive rivers, and other organisations
As a riverine country, Bangladesh’s economy is dependent on rivers. About 800 rivers including tributaries flow through the country, constituting a waterway of around 24,140 km. Moreover, most of the country’s land is formed through silt brought by the rivers.
Rivers are the main source of water for cultivation. Moreover, they are the principal arteries of commercial transportation and, most importantly, provide fish, an important source of protein. Although many of us have to face enormous hardship due to rivers during flood, fresh deposits of rich silt replenish the fertile but overworked soil.
Another fact would help us to understand the importance of rivers. The worldwide demand for drinking water is doubling every 20 years. Scientists say that 1,900-5,000 litre and 900-2,000 litre water is needed to produce 1 kg of rice and wheat, respectively. Out of the total amount of sweet water in the world about 63% is used in crop production while 23% is used in industries and 8% in domestic use.
However, rivers, the main source of drinking water, are facing an array of threats in Bangladesh as well as around the world. But, unfortunately, we are not conscious about it yet. Without considering the impact we are not only constructing structures over rivers but also polluting them tremendously.
A report published in The Daily Star on September 25 said the relevant district administrations and officials of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) had demarcated the Turag, Balu and Buriganga rivers, leaving out the foreshores at many places. As a result, land grabbers have embarked on massive river filling, cashing in on the foreshore exclusion at Sinnirtek, Amin Bazar, and from Mirpur embankment to Ashulia along the Buriganga.
Actually, we do not care about rivers since most of the people do not know the importance of a healthy river. In a sentence, if the dying out of rivers continues it will affect our food supply, ecosystem linkages and livelihood activities.
Building on this year’s theme of World Rivers Day, a local volunteer organisation for saving rivers wants to encourage people to think about the sorry state of the rivers and their necessity, and to remind them of their responsibility. It also called on media, organisations and agencies to observe the day, specially by going to see the condition of the rivers.
The river loving members of the organisation believe that our callousness is one of the main reasons behind the bad condition of our rivers. If we visit our rivers regularly and engage in different activities such as swimming, travelling, holding boat races and other cultural and traditional programmes, as in the past, the condition of the rivers will improve because we will be forced to keep their flow normal.
Rivers are the lifeline of the country and our overall development is dependent on their condition. Do we really care about rivers? Do we know our rivers really need our assistance for their existence? Can’t we visit our rivers for a day to experience the real situation? Can’t we, at least, organise a party on a river on this day?