A river sacrificed to realtors |
Morshed Ali Khan and Rafiq Hasan
The river Turag, the main tributary of the river Buriganga on the northern fringe of the city, is fast being sacrificed to development, with its shores stolen for building construction and its waters polluted by industrialists, making it one among many rivers in the country to face environmental devastation.
The most recent aggression against the river at Mirpur came from the Dhaka Deputy Commissioner's office, which has leased out acres of the shore and foreshore to the Borobazar kitchen market committee.
Dipjal, the local ward commissioner, said the shore was allocated to several hundred "poor traders" after the government recently evicted the kitchen market from the Dhaka protection embankment. The committee is now building a concrete structure on the river.
Local people said that all canals leading to the river Turag in the Mirpur area are being filled under Dipjal's direct patronage, an allegation which Dipjal himself denied.
With huge encroachments along its shores and heavy pollution in its water, the sight of the river Turag at the Amin Bazar, Baghbari and Diabari areas of Mirpur is so pathetic that local people think it is only a matter of time before the river dies down.
Originating from Bangshi and the old Brahmaputra rivers, the Turag has a total length of 78-kilometers, 23 of which flow around the city. Its water at the Mirpur bridge area looks like discarded engine oil and poses a serious health hazard to the millions living along it. The main source of its pollution is the industrial waste emitted by the Hazaribagh tanneries.
In the upstream near Ashuliya, Birulia, Sinnirtek and Nawaberbagh, the Turag is virtually devoid of both a shore and foreshore, since individuals as well as top real estate developers have claimed mile after mile of both, erecting new structures at various places along the river.
The government has partially dredged the Turag from Ashuliya up to Amin Bazar, even though the river is under the Dhaka Circular Waterway project, but it has not demarcated the river to save it from the land-hungry developers.
Yad Ali, a local trader at Nababerbagh, along a vast stretch of low lying land by the river Turag, said that real estate is the 'hottest and the most lucrative' business in the locality. He said that developers have filled up more than a dozen natural canals originating from the river Turag within the last five years.
He pointed his finger at the low lying land and said that if the trend of construction continued, the green paddy fields would be replaced by buildings and the river would become a drain within the next ten years.
At Tongi, near the locality of Abdullahpur, a new settlement has grown on the shore of the river Turag. Local people said that every year during the lean period the river is subjected to landfill.
Mirza Ferdous Ahmed, a student and a permanent resident of Mirpur along the river, said that every year encroachers are occupying the river along Amin Bazar, Hizla and Baghbari.
"I was born in this area and I have witnessed since my childhood how network of natural canals in the area and the river Turag are disappearing," Ahmed said.
"Thousands of families in the locality were dependent on this river for navigation and washing purposes but now it seems the river is facing extinction," said Ahmed.