POST TIME: 13 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Grabbers hell-bent on rivers despite warnings
Portions of banks of Dhaleswari, Shitlakhya, Bangshi, Turag, Balu and the Buriganga have already been grabbed

Grabbers hell-bent on rivers despite warnings

River Turag faces gradual encroachment at Mirpur Beribadh point near Chatbari area of the capital. The to-let sign put up on a piece of land shows how aggressive the grabbers are while occupying rivers skirting the mega city. The photo was shot on Friday. Photo: Nazmul Islam

Numerous interventions in the form of the Prime Minster’s directive, Supreme Court order, several campaigns carried out by environmentalist groups and the media to refrain from fresh encroachment along the banks of the country’s rivers, including the city’s four, seem to have had no impact whatsoever. Large portions of banks of rivers like the Meghna, Dhaleswari, Shitlakhya, Bangshi, Turag, Balu and the Buriganga have already been grabbed, either by a section of influential groups or realtors.

Green activists have alleged that the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), National River Protection Commission (NRPC), local administrations and the police have failed to protect the rivers from the clutches of the greedy section of the society. According to river experts and green activists, land sharks are grabbing the river banks in league with a section of corrupt BIWTA officials responsible for protecting the river banks.

Although the district administrations, in association with the BIWTA, are conducting eviction drives, green activists have branded them as eyewash.

Major portions of the bank of the Turag, from Shinnirtek via Dourbridge to Tongi, have been filled up, and the department concerned has failed to protect the areas.

While the bank of the Burignaga, including its Adi Channel (Old channel) at Kholamora, Kamrangirchar, Basila and many other places have been filled up and many multi-storeyed buildings constructed illegally, green activists alleged.

Besides, a section of people are running their business occupying the bank of the Shitlakhya at Kanchpur and port areas of Narayanganj illegally.

Greedy people are running their bricks, sand and stone chips business at many points of the Meghna and Gumti near Daudkandi illegally.

Interestingly, important persons like ministers and secretaries of different ministries almost everyday make their journey from Dhaka to Savar by road. Even they have not taken action against an encroacher who has constructed his residential building in the middle of the Karnapara canal, near the Savar Bank Colony, in Savar upazila.

Local people, including daily passengers, wonder how a person can dare to construct a building by filling up an important canal like the Karnapara. The occupants have grabbed the canal by preparing fake documents with the help of some local land officials, local people alleged. During a visit, it was found that the accused persons have constructed illegal buildings on either side of the canal, without taking permission from the municipality or the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkhya (RAJUK).

The canal flows over Karnapara, from Rajphulbaria in the south and Bank Town in the north. The river, also known as the Karnapara canal, actually links two rivers — the Bangshi and the Turag - and has a vibrant current near the Savar Bank Town.

“Country’s river banks, canals and other water bodies are frequently filled up by some people, seriously threatening bio-diversity. If this trend continues, in the long run people won’t survive,” Abdus Sobhan, former additional director general of the Department of Environment (DoE) told The Independent yesterday (Saturday). The water bodies contain rainwater which help recharge ground water, he said, adding that the nation will face severe flooding even after a little rain if the water bodies are filled up. He warned that the ground water level is falling very rapidly and it is a great threat for the environment.

“The department concerned should have to apply the existing laws against people involved in grabbing the river banks and other water bodies. The government is very much responsible in this regard,” Sobhan, who is also general secretary of Porisbesh Bachao Andolan, told this correspondent.

The green activist further said that the nation will have to face multiple disasters in the near future if these illegal activities are not stopped immediately.

“The BIWTA, with the help of local administrations, is continuously conducting drives against encroachment. We are constructing walkways alongside the river banks to prevent encroachment,” Commodore M Mozammel Huq, chairman of the BIWTA, told this correspondent. He further said eviction drive is a continuous process. “We have taken various steps to prevent the country’s rivers as per the court order,” he added.