Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Grabbers defy all

Filling up Shitalakkhya despite HC orders, cases filed against them
Filling of the river Shitalakkhya at Kanchpur in Narayanganj continues under the very nose of district and police administrations despite a High Court order to stop the encroachment.
The foreshores and a major portion of riverbed have been filled with earth, narrowing down the river almost to its half, to do trade of construction materials illegally.
Narayanganj Deputy Commissioner Md Shamsur Rahman said Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) and the district administration have filed around a dozen cases against the illegal sand traders and river grabbers.
“Police have not yet taken action against the offenders,” he said, “I talked to the police superintend several times but to no avail.”
Also, BIWTA wrote to Narayanganj sadar, Siddhirganj, Rupganj, Sonargaon, Demra and port police stations at least twelve times since January 2009 to lodge cases against the unauthorised traders and stop further encroachment.
Kanchpur is under Siddhirganj Police Station.
Its OC Qamrul Alam Mollah, however, said, “I have neither received a complaint nor am I aware of such encroachment into the river.”
Port authorities on May 16 wrote to the Siddhirganj OC for filing case specifically against seven encroachers identified as Shajahan Prodhan, Nuruzzaman, Shahidullah, Jahangir Hossain, MH Monir, Khokon Devnath and Based Mian.
Despite repeated attempts over the phone, none of the traders was available for their versions.
Narayanganj SP Shaikh Nazmul Alam said he was unaware of the issue as he took over just a month back. “I will look into why police have not taken action.”
In June 2009, the HC ordered eviction of all illegal structures and stop to the earth-filling along the Buriganga, Shitalakkhya, Turag and Balu rivers, with the police as respondents.
It also directed the officers-in-charge concerned to be vigilant against river encroachment.
Meanwhile, authorities have identified around 60 unauthorised traders destroying the river at Shimrail, Anti and other moujas.
They unload bulkhead vessels carrying sand, earth, boulders and other materials filling up river foreshores and bed. A number of politically-blessed local thugs control the whole affair, said sources.
During a recent visit to the site, the river’s navigable channel was found chocked with earth-filling.
Narayanganj river port officials of BIWTA requested the deputy commissioner four times for mobile court operation against the encroachers.
But the DC said there was no “strong” law to effectively use mobile courts against river grabbers.
However, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said the mobile court could be conducted even under Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code to check encroachment.
The port officials a year back requested higher authorities of BIWTA for dredging of the river and construction of retaining walls at Kanchpur site. But nothing has been done yet.
BIWTA Director (port) Mahbubul Alam said, “I made a verbal proposal in this regard.”
BIWTA and district administration jointly conducted eviction drives at the site at least ten times since 2006 till last October and excavated some of the filled-up places.
They removed 525 illegal structures during March 2010 and January this year.
But the encroachers soon came back and filled up the river at Kanchpur, Shimrail, Anti, Joka, Siddhirganj and Ruposhi moujas.
And the river lost navigability.
Records show there are at least 138 earth-filled areas along the Shitalakkhya.
Some 65 traders were permitted by BIWTA to do business on the Shitalakkhya foreshores at Kanchpur. But their licences have not been renewed, said Mahbubul Alam of BIWTA.
Though the Shitalakkhya along with Buriganga, Balu and Turag were declared ecologically critical, environment department has yet to take action against the encroachers.
Munir Chowdhury, director (enforcement) of Department of Environment, said he would soon conduct eviction drive at the site.

 

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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