Dhaka, a bustling city where citizens live strenuous lifestyles- constricted within the boundaries of deadlines, month close and sales target. As crucial as these boundaries may be, it only made us more disconnected from nature than we were a century ago. Our perception towards environment grows dimmer as virtual reality burgeons by the day.
In the midst of such destabilising issues, one man is working relentlessly towards the preservation of rivers and the environment in Bangladesh.
Shohag Mohajon was born in a middle-class family of Puran Dhaka. From a very young age, he has been very empathetic towards his community and the environment. He wholeheartedly believes that every creation of God deserves compassion. The environmentalist says with a sense of purpose. “I feel like it is my responsibility to keep the environment clean and to sustain it should be our priority.”
Shohag Mohajon is the General Secretary of Dhaka Youth Club International. Apart from that, he is also a member of Water Keepers Alliance, Front Lineage Defender and Amnesty International.
Helping young minds and nurturing them into a responsible adult is a task he takes seriously. He holds many seminars and workshops to nurture leadership, communicative, and critical thinking skills for the youth of his community. To help his cause, he runs a free art school, a library and last but least a Quran Education Center.
These valiant efforts have won him recognition and many awards. West Bengal Government of India awarded Shohag Mohajon the International Confederation Award. If that is not enough, he was also nominated as one of the thirty Youth Icons from all over the world by the International Youth Committee.
Shohag Mohajon also bears the title of Chief Executive of Clean River Bangladesh. The organisation began operating two years ago and works as an awareness platform and also as an advisory body. Clean River Bangladesh visits different rivers and executes awareness programs for the localities. It also creates reports on the condition of waterways and sends it to the National River Conservation Committee (NRCC). The organisation has over 200 volunteers and has investigated the condition of 40 rivers.
There is currently 30-40 feet of waste in the Buriganga River. The condition grows severe by the day as there is no initiative to clean it. He shares his dismay by saying, “It takes 400 years for a plastic packet to dissolve fully in the water when thrown in a river. There is no one to clean these wastes.” He firmly believes that the government needs to appoint staff to clean the water bodies just as it has appointed people to clean the streets.
For a sustainable solution, the general public must be made aware of the impact of the polluted environment. The awareness can be achieved if the mass public is included in initiatives to sustain healthy water bodies. The man with a purpose states that “Only project-based initiatives cannot save our rivers.”
Shohag also contributes as a National Executive Member of Bangladesh Environment Movement (BAPA). This organisation succeeded in evicting leather industries around the Buriganga River after 17 long years of protest. Before BAPA could enjoy the fruit of its victory, the same sector started polluting the Dhaleshwari River. Shohag stressed that the factories would not stop dumping waste in the river if the Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) are not set up correctly.
The never-ending battle against river pollution takes the environmentalist to almost every corner of the country. He dealt with evicting illegal establishment along the banks of Cox’s Bazar to protesting against Rampal Power Plant and raised his voice to preserve the eco-system of Sundarbans. The headstrong man even worked with the European Union for an anti-plastic program in Hatirjheel. Shohag woefully adds that in Bangladesh, only a handful of people are working for the environment.
Mohajon explains his concern around the recent development projects. The planning of such projects needs to have proper plans, an aim, an objective and a bigger picture. He explains that properly planned cities are necessary for any country, and through these plans, a better, cleaner and a healthy environment can be sustained.
The environmentalist also added that unplanned initiatives could do more harm than good. He says “As a nation, we do not understand which projects are fruitful for our cities or our country. By the time we realise the downfall of these projects, it will already be too late.” He urges that the government must implement properly planned projects while keeping future implications into consideration.
The modest man spoke briefly of his success and focused more on bringing up failures and shortcomings he faced during his journey over the years. He expressed in a disconcerting tone that only a handful of people work for the environment, and most of them lack sincerity. He also divulged that most of the NGOs carry out project-based work and they only run as long as the funds are still flowing.
When the bashful man was coerced into sharing his success and achievements, he added “I feel fulfilled when people come to me for help with their confidence in me. This achievement is priceless.” Shohag and his organisation successfully revived Baral River, and believes there is lot more to do. The audacious man was even threatened by his community, several times, because of his initiatives. “I never let these experiences affect me. One has to accept both positive and negative encounters in life. That way, you will realise whether you’re doing something right.” he said while smiling.