Place: Itakhola, Trimohini, Khilgaon, Dhaka
WKB consortium organized Balu River Festival 2022 – Demanding a pollution-free river during 25 and 26 November to build awareness and protect the river from pollution. The objective was to engage local community members, CSOs/CBOs, NGOs, youth, media, academician, artist and public figures in protecting Narai, Debdholai, Balu rivers and to bring river pollution into the mainstream policy discussion and enhance environmental justice and political consequence of river pollution. The main event was on 26 November 2022 held at Itakhola, Khilgaon, Dhaka. On 25 November there were promotional activities like boat race and football match. There were stalls for demonstration of activities by different organizations in the Balu River Festival.
As part of the program, WKB consortium organized boat race and friendly football match on 25 November as promotional for the Balu River Festival. The boat race was held from Kayetpara, Khilgaon, Dhaka to Itakhola, Khilgaon, Dhaka on the Balu River during 3:30 – 4:30 PM. A friendly football match was also held between two villages at the festival venue. Sharmeen Murshid, Chief Executive of Brotee and former Member, National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) inaugurated the boat race and football match. Waterkeepers Consortium officials, Barogram Balu River Coalition members, Dhaka South City Corporation Ward Councilor (Ward Councilor 75) Md. Akbar Hossain, Counterpart International representative Mahadhe Hasan were present among others. Thousands of people observed the boat race and football match.
The main event on 26 November was observed in 3 different segments:
Session-1 (11:00 AM – 1:00 PM): Inauguration of the festival and discussion on Balu River: After the national anthem the session chair and special guests inaugurated the festival by freeing doves. This session was chaired by Khushi Kabir, Social Activist and Coordinator, Nijera Kori. Badiul Alam Majumdar, Founder Secretary, Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN); Alhaj Md. Humayiun Kabir, General Secretary, Bangladesh Awami League, Dhaka City South; and A. K. M. Shahid Uddin, Deputy Managing Director (O&M), Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Dhaka WASA) were present as the special guests. Sharif Jamil, Lead, Waterkeepers Bangladesh Consortium provided an overview and background of the Balu River Festival in the inauguration session. Md. Suruj Mia, Convenor, Barogram Balu River Coalition; Mainuddin Ahmed, Chief of Party, Promoting Advocacy and Rights (PAR), Counterpart International; DSCC Ward Councilor of Ward no 2, Md. Anisur Rahman Sarkar; DSCC Ward Councilor of Ward no 74, Md. Azizul Haque; DSCC Ward Councilor of Ward no 75, Md. Akbar Hossain; and Professor Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, Stamford University Bangladesh spoke on the occasion. Sumana Binte Masud, Civil Society Advisor of USAID was present. Mohammad Azaz, Chairman, River and Delta Research Centre presented an overview of Balu River (history, status of environment, challenges, issues to address).
Session-2 (2:00 PM – 3:30 PM): Lathi Khela and Balish (pillow) game for women: A thirteen member “Sohiruddin Lathi Khela group” from Mongla, Bagerhat performed an hour long spectacular and colorful show at the Balu River Festival venue. Pillow passing game was organized for participant females of the Balu River Festival.Session-3 (3:30 – 5:00 PM): Prize giving and Cultural event: Prize giving event was held to handover prizes to the winners of boat race, football match and pillow passing game. In between prize giving and cultural show Monir Hossain Chowdhury, Environment & Climate
Change Specialist, National River Conservation Commission expressed solidarity with the Balu River Festival organizers. Ibnul Syed Rana, Voice of Old Brahmaputra; Tofazzal Sohel, Khowai River Waterkeeper; Abdul Karim Chowdhury Kim, Surma River Waterkeeper; Sheikh Mohammad Noor Alam, Pashur River Waterkeeper also expressed their solidarity in the session. The cultural event was performed by singer Lovely Deb (from Sylhet).
The Balu River Festival events were live on WKB Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/waterkeepersbangladesh), and PAR Online Platform for CSOs (PAR Online Platform for CSOs | Facebook). A total of 387 participants (male 358, female 29) registered in the event on 26 November 2022. Huge number of participants did not register.
Photographs of Balu River Festival Events:
Boat Race on 25 November 2022, Itakhola, Khilgaon, Dhaka
Football Match 25 November 2022, Itakhola, Khilgaon, Dhaka
Inauguration of the festival and discussion on Balu River 26 November 2022
Lathi Khela and Pillow passing 26 November 2022, Itakhola, Khilgaon, Dhaka
Pillow passing 26 November 2022, Itakhola, Khilgaon, Dhaka
Prize giving and Cultural Event, 26 November 2022, Itakhola, Khilgaon, Dhaka
Performance by singer Lovely Deb