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Tuesday, September 25, 2012
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Rivers officially made thinner

Faulty demarcation encourages encroachers; ministerial recommendations for pillar relocation ignored

The red lines drawn in the photo mark the faulty demarcation pillars on the river Balu at Rupganj in Narayanganj. Inset, demarcation pillars on the river Buriganga to the west of Mirpur Beribadh. The photos were taken recently. Photo: Sk Enamul Haq

The rivers of Dhaka are destined to remain narrow as the shipping ministry has expressed its inability to fully rectify the faulty demarcation of the streams despite a High Court order and subsequent ministerial decision.

An extensive visit revealed that relevant district administrations and officials of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) had demarcated the Turag, Balu and Buriganga rivers, leaving out the foreshores at many places.

As a result, land grabbers have embarked on massive river filling, cashing in on the foreshore exclusion at Sinnirtek, Amin Bazar and from Mirpur embankment to Ashulia along the Buriganga.

Shipping minister Shajahan Khan, who leads the national taskforce on river conservation, in reply to a question after a taskforce meeting on August 1 said the authorities had relocated most of the wrongly placed pillars along the Turag River.

"But we could not reclaim all the foreshores, as we had to give them up in many cases due to various reasons," he said, adding, "We have requested the land ministry to take legal action against those responsible for the exclusion of the foreshores."

The foreshore is the part of the shore between the lowest water level in the dry season and the highest level of water during the monsoon.

Shipping Secretary Abdul Mannan Howlader said, “We have repeatedly informed the land ministry of the anomaly in river demarcation, as it is the one to take legal action in this regard.

The national taskforce has no authority to compel a ministry to act, he said.

Sources said a section of unscrupulous officials had facilitated exclusion of foreshores during the demarcation in exchange for money.

One example of the gross destruction of the Balu is marking off a land-filling on a shoal in the middle of the river near Ichhapur Bridge as “private land”. The land has a boundary with pillars set up in an extremely irregular alignment.

River grabbing has also been going on at different locations, including one near Kamarpara Bridge along the Ashulia-Tongi embankment link road of the Turag.

The relevant authorities, however, have been silent about the earth-filling on such low-lying land, although the wetland conservation law prohibits such filling-up even on private land.

The district administrations of Dhaka and Gazipur along with the BIWTA have drawn the boundary line of the Turag, Balu and Buriganga during the dry season, excluding foreshore land in violation of a High Court order.

In 2009, the HC directed the deputy commissioners (DCs) concerned to demarcate the rivers as per Cadastral Survey (CS) and Revised Survey (RS), retaining the eroded areas and shoals and in order to protect them with pillars, walkways and plantations.

Now, with most of the foreshores left out, the government has to earth-fill into the rivers for walkways and trees, narrowing down the rivers further, said a BIWTA official.

They have neither followed the CS or RS records accordingly nor the definition of river, as outlined in the river port laws, said a BIWTA deputy director, who has worked extensively on the issue, wishing anonymity.

"They have only attempted to establish the lean water flow in the dry season as a river conveniently accommodating the anomalous leases and grabbing of foreshore lands," he said.

Following reports on faulty demarcation, the government in May last year formed a committee headed by state minister for land Mostafizur Rahman. Subsequently the committee visited the Turag and Balu rivers.

It decided that the district administration along with BIWTA and directorate of land records had to resurvey and reset the pillars to demarcate the foreshores during monsoon high tide (August-September).

Rafiqul Islam, Dhaka river port officer, however, said they had relocated the pillars from Ashulia to Tongi in the right places.

When it was pointed out that pillars were still well into the river at many places, including in the Balu near Ichhapur Bridge, he said, “It may seem so to you, but it is actually not.”

Md Nurul Islam, deputy commissioner of Gazipur, said they had realigned the pillars along an 18-kilometre stretch but could not reclaim foreshore in all the cases.

“We tried to include foreshore with the river as much as possible. We hardly found land free as much as it should be,” he said, “I cannot readily say how foreshores were leased out to private individuals.”

Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela), said excluding the foreshores in the process of saving rivers was a deviation of the HC order, as it would further shrink the rivers.

As per Land Management Manual, the district administration had no authority to lease out river foreshores, which is khas land, she said.

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The HC order and subsequent ministerial decision to rectify the faulty demarcations have not been carried out. In many cases the foreshores have been filled up by land grabbers in connivance with men in authority. The weakness of the government to enforce HC directives is due mainly to real estate firms many of which belong to AL supporters. As civil administration including the ministries, BIWTA and the district administrations have failed to reclaim khas land as per the CS and RS record, we may requisition the armed forces (as in many other cases they are our last resort) to implement the directives of the court and ministries. I am afraid, strong hands and heavy punishment may be inflicted on all illicit occupiers of land without fear or favor. We want to see this historic city in a befitting setting worthy to be the capital of our country.

: Iftikhar-ul-Awwal

Truly terrible news. Who is land grabbers? We don't except anything from our potentate Govt.

: Milna


  • Dev Saha
    Tuesday, September 25, 2012 12:47 AM GMT+06:00 (176 weeks ago)

    Do not worry, it is going to be more thinner with time.

  • Dr. Ahsan Habib
    Tuesday, September 25, 2012 01:17 AM GMT+06:00 (176 weeks ago)

    Is it not the same government who jumped to repeal 13th amendment because of a short order from the same Supreme Court? What happened to the allegiance of the government?

  • Nasirullah Mridha,USA
    Tuesday, September 25, 2012 01:18 AM GMT+06:00 (176 weeks ago)

    Governments most of the Ministry failed to live up to the public expectation.Everywhere is in ill at-ease situation.Whenever and whereever they got something they are lining their pocket.Share Market paupered the people,MLM scuppered the public vim to do something in their life,Hall-Mark denuded the Sonali Bank on the watch of potentate Government.Now if river-ruffians choke off full swath of foreshore we will not be perturb because we are now accustomed to see this kind of catastrophe.

  • Mayen Uddin Tazim. former Advisor, UNDP
    Tuesday, September 25, 2012 08:37 AM GMT+06:00 (176 weeks ago)

    This is a longstanding issue in which rivers around the Dhaka city have been occupied by the influential by ignoring the High Court order and subsequent ministerial decision. As a result, the whole natural environment and river-ways are being narrowed. But, the nation wants to know how these land grabbers have become more powerful than the High Court order and the Govt. Executive bodies as well as law enforce agencies? Many environmental & human rights activities have been raising its voices against this illegal act; virtually we do not see any positive result.





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