The dumpster that once was a river

Mymensingh City Corporation must take action now to stop the trashing of a lifeline.
Construction materials dumped in Brahmaputra

Visual: Star

We are alarmed that the once mighty Old Brahmaputra River has been allowed to turn into a dumping zone, without any concern about how such reckless trashing of a vital waterbody would affect the environment, the community at large and people’s livelihoods which depend upon it. According to a report by this daily, some powerful quarters in the locality have been dumping concrete waste and storing construction materials near the river at Mymensingh city’s Kachari Ferry Ghat area for months. Locals allege that the Mymensingh City Corporation (MCC) and local Water Development Board (WDB) have refused to take any initiative against those partaking in such illegal activities, despite repeated reminders and memorandums submitted to the Mymensingh deputy commissioner and MCC mayor urging them to take action. The question, as always, is: why do our authorities care so little about the relentless attack on our rivers?

Across the country, our rivers have become dumping zones for industrial and plastic waste, leading to clogging and the suffocation of aquatic life. Rivers are contaminated with harmful chemicals and heavy metals, positing a significant risk to the health of locals, to say nothing of the loss of income of the fisher communities for whom the rivers once used to be the source of sustenance. A recent study by the Rivers and Delta Research Centre (RDRC) confirmed that at least 56 major rivers in the country are dying a slow but painful death due to extreme pollution, with little to no concrete measures taken to save them, despite rivers being granted the legal status of “living entities” four years ago.

If the countless reports – and subsequent editorials we have written – on river pollution are any indication, the blame for the current tragic state of our lifelines falls squarely on the authorities. And let’s be honest: no number of editorials, laws, policies or court orders can protect our rivers from the apathy of the authorities, unless we start holding those who are supposed to monitor and stop the encroachers and polluters accountable for their ostensible failure to do so.

In this regard, it is inspiring to see the locals of Mymensingh mobilising to convince the authorities to do their part to save the Brahmaputra. Earlier this year, the same forum had raised concerns about dumping of industrial and household waste into the Old Brahmaputra River at Kalibari Puran Gudaraghat. Despite promises at the time that action will be taken, we are frustrated to note that nothing has changed for the better.

If the concrete waste and other construction materials aren’t cleaned up immediately, it will mix with the river water once monsoon begins. We join the locals of Mymensingh in demanding swift action from MMC and WDB. Should they fail to do their job – once again – legal action should be taken against them.

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