The Buriganga river has a long human history. The Mughals made Dhaka their capital in 1610 as they saw that its banks were already an important location for trade.
This busy river with its countless, sometimes deadly launches (passenger ferries) and boats carrying cargo is central to the identity of Dhaka. The Buriganga river is also at the economic heart of Dhaka and its industries supplying a global market.
Dhaka has a population of 22,478,116, and it grows by at least a further 3.2 % every year. The toxic waste of factories, the untreated sewage of its 22.5 million inhabitants, medical waste, food waste, dead animals, plastics, and oil contaminate the Buriganga river. The city of Dhaka officially discharges 4,500 tonnes of solid waste into this river every single day. These days it is known for being the most polluted river in Bangladesh and supporting no life.
Even though I have only worn second-hand clothing for a decade, my clothes are virtually all made in Bangladesh. I ask myself am I complicit in the death of this river?
Molla Sagar’s Gangaburi can be seen to be a love letter to the Buriganga’s position in people’s hearts. The film focuses on the ancient ritual of ‘Ganga Puja’, where people come to be spiritually cleansed by the river. Locals come to their beloved river with ritual offerings. The filmmaker imagines that their ‘Mother Ganga’ feels bad for those who offer plates of puja, and imagines the hopes of this mother river, that she would want to purify her children with her holy water as they ask.
Molla Sagar is a prominent documentary filmmaker in Bangladesh. Sagar makes films with a deep respect and empathy for the people he depicts. The subjects in his work do not live in a space of pity; he aims to show their resilience in the face of impossible challenges.
Sagar’s films focus on people living in all corners of Bangladesh struggling to attain the basics for survival because of issues caused by environmental disaster. His films cover the killing of a river, the salination of farmland, the consequences of open cast coal mining, land grabbing, protest, and the fight for survival of people living on the coastal belt while they are hostage to the climate emergency.