By Uthpal Kumar
Conservation of river ecosystems is now one of the biggest demands for water and food security in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh. I attended a regional seminar held at Hotel Castle Salam in Khulna on 19th March 2012 where I found that people of Khulna are now well motivated and also organized to save the coastal river. Representatives from about 40 government, non-government, education and research institutes attended this seminar to find out some practical strategies and actions points for conserving the coastal rivers for peoples’ survival and sustain growth in the region. Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) arranged this seminar on behalf of peoples’ interest and for protecting the river ecosystem of the southwest region. In the seminar, famous local activists like Prof. Zafar Imam, Prof. Anuwarul Kadir, Advocate Firoz Ahmed, and elected political leaders discussed ways of protecting coastal rivers from environmental degradation and water logging problems in the region. Activist Mr. Anil Biswas presented the key note speech in the seminar.
Activists in a national seminar discussing the importance and ways to save the coastal rivers for protecting people and ecosystems in the southwest region of Bangladesh. (Photo: Mr. Mahfuzur Rahman Mukul)
In the discussion session the audience said that once the southwest coastal region was a very resourceful region but now it has been a degraded zone due to environmental pollution and degradation of the coastal ecosystem by anthropogenic means. Faulty or unplanned development strategies are mainly responsible for destroying this regional ecological balance, as noted by the local activists and civil society representatives in the seminar. The speaker also marked that development agencies had their own business plan due to which the coastal ecosystem is under tremendous threats for life and livelihoods of the coastal people. He also said that. “our rivers are like our blood circulation system, without it we cannot live or sustain”. Other speakers in this large forum also discussed the impact of urbanization and climate change on rivers situated at Khulna and its periphery. They said that after construction of Rupsha bridge, the mighty Rupsha is now dying by large amounts of siltation. The activists in the seminar laid emphasis to building up of a social mobilization for saving the existing rivers through an individual river ministry which would ensure sustainable socio-economic development in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh.