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14 July, 2019 11:21:21 AM
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River— the mother and saviour

Laws are not enough to protect the nature and environment in the country
Abdul Gaffar choudhury
River— the mother and saviour

The famous writer Rahul Sankrityayan in his classic travelogue A journey from the Volga to the Ganges portrayed human civilization as born and nourished mainly by rivers. That is why he selected two rivers— one the Russian Volga and the other the Indian Ganges as his title. River with its water help humanity to harvest their crops, make earth fertile for cultivation and has made the world habitable by protecting nature and keeping it green and alive. That is why water is called life. The world could not be a sustainable place for human civilization without the help of rivers, seas, oceans and other water bodies. Most civilizations developed on the banks of rivers. That is why the Nile, Volga, Ganges, Rhine, Mississippi, Congo, Euphrates and so on have got so much importance in the history of human civilization. A Russian writer in his famous novel And quiet flows the Don indicated that rivers dictate the development of civilization. Rivers are living natural forces with its own power for creation and destruction.
Last 30th June a High court in Bangladesh declared all the rivers of the country as 'legal persons'. At first the river Turag got this status. But on1st July when the full verdict was published it was seen that not only Turag but all the rivers of the country were declared as 'legal persons'. It is a historic verdict. The existence of the whole world at present is threatened by global warming, environment pollution, destruction of rain forests, greenhouse effect and other problems. America's Trump administration ignoring experts' warning is not taking any steps to protect the world. In this regard Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh took leadership of the affected countries to save them from this danger. All over the world people are demanding to their leaders to save the world from this climate disaster. In Bangladesh also people organized a movement to save the rivers, wild life and forests like the Sundarbans. The present ruling of the High Court seems a partial victory of that movement.

There were several wars in the Middle East for oil. There have been disputes between many countries on the question of sharing river water. There is dispute between Bangladesh and India on the sharing of the water of the Ganges and Teesta. The dispute between Pakistan and India has not yet been fully settled on sharing the water of the Indus basin. In the Middle East there are disputes between different Arab countries on their rights on the water of Shaat al-Arab. Experts say that if there is third world war in future it will start not for oil but for water.
If we look at our own country Bangladesh we will find that rivers are slowly dying. The district of Barisal was once known as a riverine district. Rivers were the main life centre of this district. Its communication, cultivation and the natural greenery were all dependent on the rivers. The mighty rivers of Barisal— Kala Badar, Bishkhali and Agun Mukha were so aggressive that people used to sacrifice animals in the name of these rivers before crossing them. People considered these rivers as human beings and tried to please them by offering sacrifices.
The rivers have a destructive side also. On one hand, they continue to destroy village after village, as well as towns and citie. On the other hand for human negligence and lack of protection and excavation mighty rivers like Meghna and Padma are slowly dying in many places of the country. Some people also use rivers to dump their spoils and rubbish and pollute the water. Some greedy land owners fill rivers with sand, grab it illegally and sell it for building shops and houses. Some rivers are dying for lack of regular excavations and other protective measures. In some places Meghna and Padma are destroying village, city and business centres. Government is trying to halt these unscrupulous river land grabbers but without much success.
It is proved that river acts like a living being. From the ancient times the Hindus in the subcontinent worshipped the Ganges as a deity and called her 'mother'. They still believe that bathing in the Ganges will wash away their sins. In New Zealand the indigenous Maori community believes that the river Whanganui gave them birth. They demanded that government declare Whanganui a 'living mother'. After 140 years government finally bowed down to this demand and two years ago the parliament passed a bill accepting the river as a living being. In Columbia the river Atrato got the same status as a 'legal person'. In India two rivers, the Ganges and Jamuna are now legal persons and government has appointed some officials to look after the wellbeing of these two holy rivers. Bangladesh is now the fourth country which accepted the living status of not only two or three rivers but all the rivers of the country.  
However, enacting a law is not enough to protect the nature and environment in the county. Moreover, the safety of the wild life and protection of forests like the Sudarbans should also come under the law. The rivers of the country needs immediate excavations. Otherwise in the monsoon the rivers will not be able to contain the extra water and it will result in heavy flooding which has been a severe problem for Bangladesh for many years now. Floods destroy the crops, the livestocks and human lives. The eminent scientist Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose first discovered that trees also have life. The forest acts as a natural barrier to protect the country from natural disasters.
The court should direct the government to protect the Sundarbans and other forests also. The country's rivers should be immediately freed from pollution and illegal occupations of greedy land owners who are filling up many rivers like the Buriganga and Shitalakhya and endangering  their existence along with the marine life and people in general. These criminals should be punished seriously. The rebuilding of Sonar Bangla depends on the governments' all-out effort to protect its natural assets like hills, rivers, forests and wild life. The country's population will be saved and immensely benefitted by these efforts. The High Court's present ruling should be followed by other directives for the benefit of the country's nature and population.

London, Friday 12 July, 2019

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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