Chilai River on the verge of demise amid rampant pollution

Gazipur, Feb 27 (UNB) - The 23-kilometer long Chilai River, flowing through the northern parts of the district, has become toxic with poisonous industrial and construction wastes, and encroachments.

“Many locals once depended on the river for their livelihood. Now there’s not even a frog in the river, let alone fish, as it’s badly polluted,” said environment activist Prof Anowar Sadat.

Once boasted turbulent waves and flew throughout the year barely 15 years back, the river has turned into a canal.

Green activists and their organisations – Chilai Bachao Anodolan, Nodi Bachao Andolan and Poribesh Bachao – have been working for years but no visible measures have been taken to save the river from pollution.

But officials at the Deputy Commissioner’s office claimed they are taking steps to save the river and clean the environment.

Until the 90s, the Sikdar Ghat beside the Zaminder palace, now used as the DC office, was a sprawling terminal for vessels. The terminal area vanished in the next two decades, replaced by high-rise buildings.

The area has now taken an urban look. At Pubail, the Chilai meets the Balu River, which is also in a poor shape.

Near the BIDC road, the river has been encroached as construction materials have been piled up there. The river has been obstructed by installing dams at different points, while industrial waste is dumped into the river ruthlessly.

Bangladesh Nodi Bachao Andolan and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) have been staging protests, demonstrations and holding human-chain programmes for years demanding the government save the river.

“Some influential people have been strangulating the river to death. There’s widespread pollution at different points of the river from Desipara to Shashanghat areas,” said Bangladesh Nodi Poribrajok Dol (BANPOD) President Md Monir Hossain. At places, he said, it has been occupied illegally”.

“They’ve built industries and houses occupying the river turning it into paddy field at places,” he said.

 Monir said it is necessary to demarcate the river area, dredge it and remove illegal establishments.

Chilai Bachao Andolan leader advocate Jalal Uddin said the river has shrunk in width and was nearing its demise because of illegal occupation and rampant pollution.

“Influential people have built houses, industries and made paddy fields occupying the river,” he said. “It’s been mostly occupied in Deshipara, Bhurulia, Kalasikdarer Ghat and Bhawalraj Shashan areas.”

“The river once had clean, transparent water and contained large varieties of fish, but now the water is only available in it during monsoon,” he said.

Prof Anowar said once the river route was used for transporting goods, but those days are history now as the water, filled with industrial waste and sewage, has gone black.

Seven months ago, National River Conservation Commission Chairman Dr Muzibur Rahman Hawladar, its member Md Alauddin and other officials visited the river. Although the locals have brought the river’s condition to the notice of the administration, no noticeable steps have been taken.

“We’ve been planning to make the river usable, beautiful, encroachment and pollution free,” said Gazipur DC Dr Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir. “Soon, it’ll be recovered from the occupants.”

Necessary allocations have been received from the government in this regard, he said, adding, “The changes will soon be visible.”