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22 September, 2019 00:00 00 AM

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World River Day 2019

Land sharks keep grabbing riverbanks with impunity

ANISUR RAHMAN KHAN, Dhaka
Land sharks keep grabbing riverbanks with impunity

There seems to be no respite from river encroachment, as land sharks continue to flout the laws with impunity. The National River Protection Commission along with other stakeholders is committed to protect and reclaim rivers from encroachers as per directives of the country’s apex court.

Meanwhile, the government, for the first time, has made a list of land sharks in 63 districts except Gaibandha and identified a total of 48,930 rogue elements who have illegally grabbed riverbanks.

These people have grabbed large chunks of riverbanks and run their businesses by illegally establishing houses, factories, godowns, housing estates, and sand and stone-chip trading centres.

According to the National River Protection Commission (NRPC), a total of 7,582 people are involved in grabbing riverbanks under Dhaka division, 18,411 in Chattogram division, 7,218 in Khulna division, 2,044 in Sylhet division, 5,215 in Barishal division, 2,783 in Rajshahi division, 2,214 in Rangpur division and 3,463 in Mymensingh division.

The highest numbers of grabbers are in the Chattogram division.

As per NRPC data, the highest number of grabbers belongs to Cumilla district—the number is 5,906, while it is 4,704 in Chattogram and 4,499 in Noakhali districts.

The number of riverbank encroachers is 959 in Dhaka district, 1,843 in Faridpur, 1,458 in Tangail, 1,399 in Manikganj, 3,134 in Kushtia, 1,283 in Chuadanga, 2,272 in Barishal, 1,554 in Barguna, 1,541 in Natore, 1.047 in Dinajpur and 2,128 in Mymensingh districts, according to NRPC.

The Gaibandha district administration is yet to submit their data, as many people affected by flood and river erosion are still living on flood-protection embankments, Alamgir Kabir, additional district commissioner (general) said, adding that they would send the data after the affected people were rehabilitated on their own land.

“The apex court has declared the NRPC as person in loco parentis of the country’s rivers. There are about 405 rivers in the country. Many of the country’s rivers have already disappeared due to grabbing and lack of proper management,” NRPC chairman Muzibur Rahman Howlader said while talking to The Independent.  

He said they had taken a one-year crash programme and directed all the district commissioners to free the riverbanks from encroachment by August 2020.

“As the legal guardian of the

country’s rivers, we are working to restore them from encroachment. There are directives both from the country’s apex court and the Prime Minister in this regard. The local administrations will ensure the identification of the riverbanks through installation of demarcation pillars after evicting illegal structures,” Howlader said.

The commission was working to amend the National River Protection Commission Act, 2013 as per the directives of the High Court, he added.

“We need courageous and honest people. The officers of the departments concerned must change their mind set. They think that more projects mean more benefits. But they will have to come out of this mind set,” the NRPC chairman said in reply to a query.

When asked about pollution being one of the major causes of death of rivers, Howlader said, “It’s true that most of the rivers are polluted. We have suggested to the department of environment (DoE) to go for the 3R methods—reduce, reuse and recycle. They must apply the laws strongly to prevent pollution. The NRPC, too, will take more effective initiatives in this regard.” He said the rivers are a public trust property. So, the local police should protect the rivers just as they protect other public property.

“The High Court has declared the rivers as legal persons and entities. So, the district commissioners should apply the State Acquisition and Tenancy Act (SATA) 1950 to free the rivers of encroachment,” the NRPC chairman said.

The NRPC wrote to deputy commissioners on August 27 to implement the directives within the next one year. That includes the identification of riverbanks and the installation of demarcation pillars within this period.

Against this backdrop, the nation will observe the ‘World River Day 2019’ on September 22.

 

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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.

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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