Tale of an Ancient River

The Buriganga river (old Ganga) is the main river flowing through Dhaka city, capital of Bangladesh. Hundreds of years ago, the banks of the Buriganga was a prime location when the Mughals made Dhaka their capital in 1610. The house-turned-museum of the then Nawab(ruler) overlooks the river, which is still the country’s main waterway for trading and ferry travel. It was once the main source of drinking water for Dhaka’s residents.

Due to intense human and industrial activity, the river has become so polluted that the water has turned pitch black and has a glue-like consistency. Much of Buriganga is biologically dead. Thousands of people who live on the bank of the river continue to use this highly contaminated water to wash, bath and even to drink.

According to the Environment Department, up to 40,000 tons of tannery waste flows into the river daily along with sewage from Dhaka, a city of more than 10 million. Human waste is responsible for 60 percent of pollution in the river, followed by industrial waste at 30 percent. The rest is solid waste. Illegal structures also have sprung up along its banks, narrowing the river.

The river is slowly dying  because of pollution and possession. But the river is an important resource for the people, who depend on it, as well as a valuable asset for all humanity. Still no significant changes were initiated to give life back to this river by protecting industrial and human made pollution and degradation.

In 2017, the government adopted a plan to maintain the navigability and normal flow of Buriganga and remove all illegal structures on its banks. This year almost 250 tanneries were relocated to a new Leather Industrial Estate (LIE) at Savar. This will perhaps ensure the water to slowly improve day by day, which gives hope the Buringanga will live again. Although much more such initiatives ought to be undertaken if Buriganga is to be saved.