Two decades ago Nurul Islam, 70, earned his living by fishing in the Buriganga River, which flows southwest of the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka and was once its lifeline.

Now, with hardly any fish to be found in the "dead" river, thanks to pollution from widespread dumping of industrial and human waste, Islam now sells street food on a small cart nearby to make ends meet.

"Twenty years ago this river water was good. It was full of life," said Islam, whose family has been living on the bank of the river for generations.