The ongoing reckless destruction of wetlands in and around the capital will lead to environmental disasters and urban flooding, said urban planners at a workshop yesterday.
Dhaka will face a large scale disaster if water bodies, canals and ponds are destroyed through earth filling at the present rate, said Prof Sarwar Jahan of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology's urban and regional planning department.
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based environment research organisation, in association with Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust organised the workshop, "Conservation of Dhaka Lakes", at the latter's premises in the capital.
Nobody is taking into consideration that real estate development through the destruction of wetlands is not sustainable as it will ultimately lead to the loss of food supply, biodiversity, drainage facilities and recreational opportunities, he said.
Lakes, ponds and wetlands are vital in the recharging of ground water supplies, controlling urban temperature and preventing urban flooding, he said.
Hundreds of Dhaka's ponds, no more existent, used to be sources of water for bathing and household chores in the yester years, said Prof Jahan, while less than half of 47 canals remain today in name only.
Associate Prof Ishrat Islam of the department said though wetlands were in many ways related to people's survival, it was viewed as wastelands in the general mindset.
Wetlands must not be considered as mere land in monetary terms as it has profound economic and social worth as vital elements for agriculture, fishing, recreation and ecological conservation, she said.
The city's entire eastern fringe, with extensive low lying wetlands and canals, used to be a huge natural water retention area. But there will be no wetlands left in the city after 2030 if the destruction goes on at the present rate, said Ishrat.
The governments must demonstrate honest intent for wetland conservation as land grabbers maintain strong connection with political quarters and do not care about regulatory agencies and mass media, she said.
CSE Deputy Program Manager Susmita Sengupta, WBB Trust Director Syed Mahbubul Alam and Advocate Taslima Islam of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association also spoke on the occasion.