Meghna to be declared ‘endangered’

The move aims to save the river

The government is going to declare several portions of the Meghna River as Ecologically Critical Areas (ECA) with the aim to protect the river and use it as a source of drinking water for Dhaka city. Sources at the Department of Environment said six places in four districts – Narayanganj, Narsingdi, Brahmanbaria and Cumilla – will be declared as ECA, not the whole river.

ECA is an environmentally protected zone where the ecosystem is considered to be endangered to reach a critical condition by the changes brought through various human activities. Sources said a draft circular has been prepared to declare the areas as ECA after the Department of Environment sent a proposal to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to this end.

They said declaring the river as ECA would facilitate taking action against factories on its banks that are polluting environment. It would also make it easy to stop establishment of any new factories on the banks. Department of Environment Director General Dr AKM Rafique told this reporter that water of rivers surrounding the capital is already polluted.

“Among the rivers adjacent to Dhaka, Meghna River water is still comparatively fresh. We must be aware that Meghna water cannot be polluted further by any means,” he said. Besides preparing a draft for declaring portions of the Meghna as ECA, a set of guidelines for environmental management of the affected areas has been made.

The parts of the river to be declared as ECA are Ariahazar, Sonargaon and Sadar upazilas of Narayanganj district, Bancharampur upazila of Brahmanbaria district and Homna and Meghna upazilas of Cumilla district. Char Bhasani, Char Dighaldi, Nunertek, Kalapahariya and Nazarpur of these upazilas have been identified as sensitive areas.

Peripheries of the 119 square kilometer Ecologically Critical Areas have been determined based on the CS (Cadastral Survey) and RS (Revisional Survey) maps. Sources said the liquid, solid and gaseous waste released from the factories set up in these areas is polluting the water, soil and air of the Meghna River.

They said wetlands along the river in the areas are being filled to build homes while the salinity in its water has increased due to reduced flow of water from the upstream. Authorities said there is no alternative to Meghna to meet the water demand of residents in the capital as the waters in rivers surrounding the city – Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitalakkhya – are highly polluted.

A series of surveys were conducted through the 'Strengthening, Monitoring and Enforcement in Meghna River for Dhaka’s Water Supply Project', which was implemented from 2015 to 2018. Under the project, financed by Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and Asian Development Bank, three technical documents have been prepared.