Make Dhaka river authorities accountable
We're encouraged by the bold statement of the chairman of the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) who recently lambasted the mayor of Dhaka North and the managing director of Dhaka Wasa for the dumping of untreated waste into rivers surrounding the capital. Reportedly, the NRCC chief even demanded that both be handed jail terms for their failure to prevent it. This may seem somewhat over the top, but there should be some form of accountability for those in charge of these vital institutions. It is because of the total lack of such accountability that Dhaka's rivers continue to be in dire straits, with unchecked pollution and encroachment robbing them of what little aquatic life they have.
It is because of the total lack of accountability that Dhaka's rivers continue to be in dire straits, with unchecked pollution and encroachment robbing them of what little aquatic life they have.
During a discussion organised by the NRCC on the occasion of the World Rivers Day, it was revealed that sewage from drainage channels (including human waste) is flowing straight into the rivers. It is Dhaka Wasa's responsibility to treat human waste. However, it appears that waste from both storm sewer and sanitary sewer is landing directly in rivers, although the two systems should be kept separate. Storm sewer should go to rivers and sanitary sewer to treatment plants.
So, what happened to the projects undertaken to ensure their separation? Why is it that untreated human waste is ending up in our rivers? Why is Dhaka Wasa so lax in preventing water pollution? And why is it that despite the NRCC chief's insistence, Dhaka North has not set up nets at the mouths of canals so that waste does not fall into rivers? While we appreciate the NRCC chief's position on ensuring accountability for these failures, we also should take note of media reports putting the interconnected canals and rivers in Dhaka South within the same bracket. Why should the DSCC mayor not be held responsible for that? Even though he has, as per the NRCC chief, planned to build waste treatment plants at the mouths of canals, it is inexcusable that such a critical measure is stuck at the planning phase.
The government needs to deal with this fiasco with the utmost urgency. It seems that Dhaka Wasa continues to be embroiled in unending controversies, and its MD has repeatedly ended up at the centre of them. Unfortunately, when it comes to river protection and management, virtually all relevant institutions of the government have been found guilty of not doing enough. Besides the problem of untreated waste disposal polluting and choking our rivers, not just in Dhaka but across the country, a number of other challenges persist, including encroachment and lack of effective eviction and excavation. This paper's coverage of these issues on the World Rivers Day was quite illustrative in that regard.
Therefore, it is time for the government to hold all these institutions and their heads to account. In Dhaka, the Wasa chief and the mayors are clearly guilty of not doing enough. The government must take action against them.