DHAKA, Bangladesh

Land grabbing in wetlands has reduced the capacity of Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka to hold rainwater in the monsoon season causing environmental disasters and urban flooding.

On World Wetland Day marked on Feb. 2, experts urged the government to control unplanned urbanization, industrialization and reclaim the occupied wetlands to ensure an environmentally sustainable city.

Some 23% of wetlands were lost in Dhaka and its surrounding areas between 2010 and 2019, according to Transparency International Bangladesh, a non-profit organization.

Ahmad Majumder, an environmental expert, said every year 2% of Dhaka’s wetlands are occupied illegally.

“Land grabbers initially pollute or fill wetlands with waste. Once they fill up, they get a lease from the government and gradually build commercial or housing projects on it,” he said.

Shahriar Hossain, another expert, said hundreds of housing projects are being built on wetlands which were once the heart of the city ecosystem.

This has caused groundwater levels to go down every year by at least 10 feet, Majumder said.

“High presence of arsenic, salinity in water, presence of dust and particles in the air during dry season and temperature rise are among the consequences of shrinking wetland,” he added.

This could cause land to become infertile and potential natural disasters, he added.

Selim Reza, a top official at the Dhaka municipality, said they have introduced a number of programs to reclaim wetlands and refill water bodies.

We have installed technologies to purify water at the city’s water bodies, he said.

“We live in a densely populated city like Dhaka where we have narrow streets, urbanization along with a number of challenges. But we are trying our best to address this issue,” he added.

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