The Singapore River remains a bright example of how a river on the verge of extinction can be saved, something that Bangladesh can learn to save the Buriganga
Hawkers and squatters clutter up the banks of the river. Tonnes of human and industrial waste are poured into the waterbody.
It is difficult to walk by the river because of the activities of hawkers and others.
The water of the river has turned pitch-black, giving off foul smell. It is impossible for any life form to survive in this water.
This may sound like a description of the Buriganga River, but this was what the Singapore River looked like about 50 years ago.
Today, the same river is one of the top tourist attractions in Singapore.
The Singapore River flows into the Marina Bay, where people go in the evening and watch the marvels of modern architecture all around.
Many of them may not be aware of what the river looked like until the then Singaporean prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, decided in 1969 to give a fresh life to the river.
The river was virtually dead just like our Buriganga.
The Singapore River remains a bright example of how a river on the verge of extinction can be saved, something that Bangladesh can learn to save the Buriganga.
Multiple committees had been formed since 1822 to study the state of the Singapore River and propose solutions to save it from pollution.
The last estimate to clean the river was 30 million Singaporean dollars. However, the initiative failed due to financial difficulties and the complexity of the problem.
Then, as per Lee Kuan's order, an action plan to clean up the river focused on the removal or relocation of the sources of pollution, relocation of squatters and hawkers, and introduction of services such as water supply, sanitation and wastewater treatment.
Strict enforcement of law, cleaning and dredging of waterways, and awareness programmes were also part of the plan.
In the end, some 26,000 families and about 5,000 hawkers operating on the riverbank were removed. Pig and duck farms, and shipbuilding businesses that contributed to pollution were shifted.
More than 2,800 industrial establishments, mostly backyard trades and cottage industries, were relocated to industrial estates.
From 1982 to 1984, as much as 2,000 tonnes of rubbish were removed and 40,000 cubic metres of sediments were dredged.
The total operation cost 200 million Singaporean dollars.
The end result was a clean river that became one of the top tourist spots of the country and also saw the construction of pieces of beautiful real estates around it.
The lesson for Bangladesh is that only a firm political commitment at the top of the government and collective efforts by all departments can save the Buriganga River.