Defining life can be a complex task but not impossible when it comes to recognising river as a living being. Water is one of the most essential elements for human life and river is one of the prime sources of it.

While South Asian countries are blessed with hundreds of rivers, many of which are trans-boundary, these resources are being killed through unplanned development, encroachment, pollution and climate change impacts.

United Nations General Assembly has already explicitly recognized the human right to water, ActionAid Bangladesh believes that river must be recognized as a living being both legally and practically to protect its right.

In this backdrop, ActionAid Bangladesh hosted its fourth annual international water conference ‘River: A living being’ on 29 and 30 January 2019 at Kuakata, Patuakhali.

At the inaugural session, Ainun Nishat, eminent water expert and Professor Emeritus of BRAC University, said people need to understand rivers well that they have feelings too and take projects accordingly to save them.

“When a river is in bad shape, it affects people, too. We don’t recognise that a river is a living being. Because we’re destroying river’s right and entity through occupation, pollution, unplanned development and climate change impacts,” he said.

– Ainun Nishat

Addressing the session as the Chief Guest, Dr Muzibur Rahman Hawladar, Chairman of National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) said, “Water is needed for life. But the reality is that we’re killing rivers. Although there’re laws, we can’t enforce those.”

Photo: ActionAid Bangladesh

Highlighting the key points of the discussion, Farah Kabir, Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh said, “Through this conference I am addressing the general people as well as the political parties and ministries, to work in unison in order save our rivers.”

During the conference, the emphasis was given on four topics -– water, power, biodiversity and river silt – to save rivers.

While this two-day conference came up with the demand of the recognition of river as a living entity, the High Court on 30 January accorded the Turag river the status of “legal person’ to save it from encroachment and said the status will be applicable for all rivers across the country (Dhaka Tribune).