Environmentalists yesterday claimed that projects harmful to rivers in the country are being undertaken in the interest of foreign financial institutions and businesses.
In a webinar on the future of river management in Bangladesh on the occasion of Earth Day, they said plans such as the Riverbank Improvement Plan 2015-2023 and India's Inland Waterways Dredging Plan 2018-2020 will be harmful to rivers in Bangladesh.
"Organisations like China Power and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the World Bank do not care if the projects are effective in the long term. They merely want the projects to be implemented because that is beneficial for them," said Nazrul Islam, founder of the Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa) which organised the webinar.
"After all, the loans provided by the organisations will be paid from government revenues," he said.
Demanding transparency in projects undertaken by the government, Nazrul said, "a feasibility study of every project and reports of their effects on the environment should be made public."
In his keynote address at the webinar, Professor Dr Md Khalequzzaman of Lockhead University said plans to narrow the River Teesta will make the river lose its natural features.
"The river will be shrunk to 700 metres and 1 kilometre from 11 kilometres in places, to recover 160 square kilometres of land. But this will increase the risk of river erosion and during floods, the river will not be able to hold the excess water," Khalequzzaman added.
Sharif Jamil, general secretary of Bapa said during the webinar, "The River Brahmaputra provides 67% of the water supply in the country and we must think twice before deciding the fate of this river."
President of Bapa, Sultana Kamal, complained that the government willingly takes side with interest groups and they are not embarrassed about the improper decisions they make, which is a big problem here.
"Not only does the government disobey the law, but they also break the law," Kamal added.
Sharmin Murshid of the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) blamed the existing system for the unfortunate conditions of rivers in the country and urged the government to find a way out of the problem.
Dr Abdul Matin, co-president of Bapa, urged the government to stop compromising when it comes to the country's rivers.