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6 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Sand quarries ‘destroying’ country’s rivers

Sand quarries ‘destroying’ country’s rivers

The government earned about Tk. 66 crore by leasing out sand quarries last year. But that was not enough to cover the Bangladesh Water Development Board's (BWDB's) annual expenditure of Tk. 1,500 crore during that time to prevent river erosion caused mainly by frequent lifting of sand from river beds.

Most of the deputy commissioners (DCs) in riverine districts are indiscriminately leasing out river beds for sand quarrying. This is one of the reasons for river erosion because of unplanned extraction of sand from rivers, allege various quarters. Green activists allege that the leasing of sand quarries are being given under politically consideration. Sand traders are digging up sand without bothering to maintain the proper alignment of river beds. With the river banks becoming vulnerable, large chunks of land, including homesteads, are being eroded every year due to unplanned sand quarries in rivers.

Experts and environmentalists

have observed that if this trend

persists, it would make the country’s rivers unstable.

The government should go for a tendering system instead of the leasing method after doing a proper technical survey, experts said.

Non-technical officials like DCs should not be allowed to lease out sand quarries, they added.

The local administration leased out 395 sand quarries in FY2016-17  across the country.

“The government has earned a total of Tk. 659,314,369 by leasing out sand quarries last year. We've sent letters to DCs for a list of the leased out sand quarries. But we're yet to get the list of FY2017-18," Golam Mawla, deputy secretary of the land ministry, told The Independent.

The BWDB has to spend, on average, Tk. 1,500 crore every year to prevent river erosion in the country, said Dr Shyamol Chandra Das, executive engineer of the Planning Division of the BWDB.

“It’s true that unplanned sand extraction from rivers is also responsible for river erosion. The department concerned should be more cautious about leasing out sand quarries to ensure proper

monitoring by experts,” he said in reply to a query.

Meanwhile, many development projects, such as dredging of rivers, have

been ordered to be halted because of such leases. For example, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has taken up a dredging project on the Manu river to increase its navigability, but the authorities concerned have failed to commence the work to clear the sand bars since November 9, 2017, as they have been leased out for sand quarrying.

“Problems have been created due to the leasing out of sand quarries on the Manu river. So, we’re yet to begin the dredging work. The Moulvibazar DC suggested that we begin the work after the Bengali month of Chaitra,” Rakibul Islam Talukder, project director and additional chief engineer of the BIWTA, told The Independent on Tuesday.

He said a 20-km stretch of the Manu river was supposed to be dredged at a cost of Tk 23.90 crore. But the work is being delayed because of sand extraction, he added.

Erosion and crack developed in many areas of the river in Moulvibazar, such as Barohat, Srirampur, Shah Bandar, Sampashi, Puran Thana and Shuarpur, due to unplanned extraction of sand.   

Moulvibazar DC Tofail Islam said they leased out the sand quarries last year and the lease period would end after the Bengali month of Chaitra. “We’ve urged the BIWTA to begin dredging work after the expiry the lease period,” he added.

The DC, however, claimed that they are regularly monitoring the work of the lessees.

“Usually, a complete survey needs to be performed before giving out any lease for sand quarries. DCs must request the BIWTA to conduct the survey, but the process is not being followed properly,” said BIWTA chairman Commodore M Mozammel Huq.

The country’s rivers are becoming unstable day by day due to the indiscriminate sand extraction from rivers, said Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) deputy executive director Dr Mominul Huq Sarker.

“Indiscriminate leasing for sand quarrying should be stopped. A proper survey should be conducted before giving out leases. Besides, DCs should not be given the responsibility of determining this, since it is a highly technical issue. There should be a survey by relevant experts,” he added.

The government should opt for the open tender process, instead of the lease system, to save the rivers, he observed.

The country’s rivers are being destroyed by some people in the name of leasing out sand quarries, Abdus Sobhan, general secretary of Poribesh Bachao Andalan, told this correspondent.

The local administration does not monitor the rivers and sand extraction activities after the lease is awarded, he alleged.

Abdus Sobhan also urged the government to take action in this regard. “There is a committee with officials from the WDB and the Department of Environment (DoE) for leasing out sand quarries. Rules and regulations are not being followed properly when it comes to leasing out sand quarries,” he said.

Sobhan also said sand quarries are given on lease under political influence. “Influential people are involved in this business. It’s nothing but illegal trading,” he added.  Both unplanned sand extraction and kiln factories are responsible for river erosion, the green activist said.

Sobhan also said the department concerned should apply the experience of Japan and the Netherlands to prevent river erosion.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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