Thousands of fishers are spending their days in danger due to river and canal pollution
Mahadev Rajbangshi is a resident of the Nayarhat area of Savar, Dhaka. He has been making a living by fishing for generations. At one time, he used to fish all year round in the river Banshi that flows by the side of the village.
Due to the contamination of the fluted water in the liquid waste of the factory, fish is no longer available there. He has to do other work or stay unemployed for ten months of the year.
He and thousands of fishers of Savar face the same problem due to the pollution of river and canal water. According to the Savar Upazila Fisheries Office, the number of fishers in the Upazila is more than 2,000.
Fishers can fish in rivers and canals for two months of the year. According to the information received from the Savar Upazila Nirbahi Officer’s Office, there are 3 rivers and 18 government canals in the Upazila.
No river or canal of Savar has de-polluted. Mahadev Rajbangshi said, ‘At one time, we used to go fishing in the river. Fishers can no longer find fish in the river as factory waste has polluted the water.
Many in the fishing community are changing occupations. “No action taken to stop river-canal pollution; we would have benefited if the government had assisted. But we do not get any help,” they said.
Abed Ali, another resident, said, “The River was clear at one time. We used to cook with that water. Now at least six months of the year, the river water stinks. There is difficulty during the ferry crossing. No one can bathe in the river because of the stench.”
Kamrul Islam Sarkar, Senior Fisheries Officer of Savar Upazila, expressed concern over river and canal water contamination. According to him, “The situation of these fishers is vulnerable.
I have visited several canals, including the Banshi, Dhaleshwari, and Turag rivers of Savar. I have seen no difference between river water and sewer water. Forget fish; no aquatic animal can survive here.”
“Two Gangetic dolphins died and floated in Turag two months ago. I think two dolphins have died due to contaminated water,” he added.
To reduce river and canal water pollution, everyone, including the Department of Environment, Bangladesh, and the concerned ministry, should be vocal. The fisheries official said vigilance should ensure that factory wastes are not dumped directly into rivers and canals.
Zahirul Islam Talukder, Dhaka district deputy director of the environment department, said, “We regularly inspect factories to stop pollution and often impose fines on industrial authorities for pollution.”
Asked about the cause of river water pollution despite regular monitoring, he said, “Apart from the tannery industry, there are about 120 dyeing factories and 60 washing factories in Savar.”
The factory is open 24 hours a day and we can monitor for 8 hours. Besides, our workforce is much less. They run Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) when we visit, and many of them may not run when we leave. That is why river and canal water is being polluted. We are working on the issue.”