POST TIME: 10 December, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Better river management moves on the cards
Govt plans to reclaim lands along the river to use it for homeless people, construction of marketplaces etc

Better river management 
moves on the cards

In order to restore and maintain navigability, the authorities concerned have planned to reduce ‘unnecessary width’ of rivers to avert siltation and ensure smooth flow of water through the main channels. The authorities have also decided to dredge the main channels, sources in the water resources ministry told The Independent last week. The ministry authorities also planned to develop the foreshore of the rivers through the dredge spoil for making business centres like hat and bazaars as well as to erect cluster villages for landless people, the sources added.

The ministry, meanwhile, has instructed its departments concerned to stop giving lease of lands belonging to the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) to private individuals and companies unless the already occupied and leased out lands are not reclaimed. Once the main channels of the rivers are ensured to be navigable during all seasons, including drought, it would also help farmers to get adequate water from the rivers for irrigation, according to the officials.

They claimed that an initiative has been taken to reclaim lands grabbed by encroached and also to ensure the proper use of every inch of land.

To implement the initiative, the authorities have planned necessary projects, which are now awaiting government approval.

A ministry official said in most cases, soon after the dredging, riverbeds get silted and refilled with the dredged spoil piled on the foreshore — the ‘unnecessary width of rivers’.

“To avert the raising of riverbeds, we have planned to build earthen embankments along the main channels of rivers by demarcating the unnecessary width of the rivers that lie on the foreshore,” said the official.

When contacted, state minister for water resources Zaheed Farooque said they have already taken an initiative to reduce the ‘unnecessary width of rivers’ and ensure their navigability through necessary dredging. Once the decision is implemented, huge lands would be reclaimed from encroachers, he added.

He said the government will use the reclaimed lands for necessary development projects, including rehabilitation of homeless and ultra-poor people, construction of marketplaces and necessary infrastructures for government offices, and other works.

“The ministry is working on preparing a list of illegal river encroachers by scrutinising the lists sent by BWDB officials sent from various districts. It would take some time to carry out the necessary inspections before preparing the list,” Farooque said, adding that once the list is finalised, eviction drives will be carried out.

When asked about influential encroachers including ruling party MPs

and business tycoons, the state minister said: “No matter who grabbed the river banks or lands, the authorities concerned will take necessary measures to evict them. No one will be allowed to use river lands illegally. The authorities will recover the lands by conducting eviction drives.”

“It’s true that it would be hard for us to recover the encroached lands from influential leaders and businessmen. But the authorities will do their work sincerely. No one will be spared,” he asserted. “To ensure this, the authorities have decided not to allow any leasing activities for the river lands. All leases will be cancelled. No influential persons will get lease anymore,” he added. The minister said that more than one billion tonnes of silt enters rivers in the country from upstream every year.