Special Significance of Protecting Boral River  

Boral River

If people in India are told that the Ganga and Jamuna meet in Bangladesh then they will not believe this easily as they know very well that the Ganga and the Yamuna/Jamuna meet at the famous sangam (confluence) near Prayagraj, or near the city of Allahabad, a very famous place of pilgrimage as well as tourist interest.  However the fact remains that the Ganga and the Jamuna rivers also meet in Bangladesh. How?

As is well-known, as it reaches nearer to sea, the Ganga river flows into two branches. One of these moves towards Bangladesh and here it is known as the Padma. On the other hand, the Brahmaputra in its Bangladesh reach is known as the Jamuna. These two rivers are joined by a river known as the Boral river. This is how the Ganga and the Jamuna also meet in Bangladesh!

Boral River flows through Bangladesh’s largest wetland as well as four districts  of the country for nearly 220 kms. Clearly this is a river of very special importance calling out for significant protective steps in keeping with its special importance. In addition it is also known for endearing scenic beauty. Unfortunately, as in the case of several other rivers in recent times, this river has been endangered and threatened by multiple problems such as encroachments, sand mining, pollution, obstructions, sluice gates and embankments. Some undesirable fishing projects also added to its problems. Excessive water hyacinth has threatened river-flow at some places.

On the happier side, several efforts have been made to sort out some of these problems in some stretches in such ways as to keep alive the hope of saving this river. As reported recently in Third Pole by Sheikh Rokon, these efforts have been led by an activist named S.M. Mizanur Rehman, known more popularly as Mizan Bhai to local people. These efforts led to removal of several encroachments as well as to chcking pollution and excessive, destructive sand mining at some places. An investigation of the problems of the river was made officially and reccomendations for protecting the river were made.

However in this context too the more recent news has not been encouraging. It has been reported tht due to the closure of some government offices during the COVID days and the non-availability of official support, some of these earlier successes could not be continued. On the other hand, making use of the absence of regulatory authority, some additional encroachments were made.

Hence the earlier encouraging efforts to protect the river have suffered some setback lately. Clearly this is a critical juncture for increasing support to steps for protecting this very important river. Activists and organizations engaged in river protection, as well as local and national authorities in Bangladesh should give special attention to protection of this river and extend the much-needed support to grassroots activitists who have been engaged in protective activities relating to this river and its environs and so are already well-informed about the details of the harm already done and the remedial actions that need to be taken in various streches of the river. One hopes that this work will be taken forward with the urgency it clearly deserves.

It is important to link river protection with protection of related livelihoods. Fisherfolk have suffered a lot due to the decline of fish in rivers. So obviously they will like to be involved with river protection efforts which can also bring back more fish in the river once known for its rich bio-diversity.

When the river had much better navigability, there were many more livelihoods related to this too, and in addition many local markets on river bank were also related to this and these have all declined. Hence clearly there is need for involving people on the basis of bringing back river-based livelihoods too.

 Bharat Dogra is a journalist who has been involved with river protection campaigns.

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