Saturday, February 23, 2019 | ePaper

Ruthless grabbing, pollution serious threats to rivers

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AMID ardent calls from the judiciary, environmentalists and the media to save the country's last surviving rivers, a private company is building two slipways in the Meghna river in Munshiganj. The Khan Brothers Slipway and Engineering Works has neither the permission nor the environment clearance from the authorities for the project. The firm has set up an enclosure in the Meghna, well below its dry season low watermark, on its west bank at Char Betagi in Gazaria Upazila to set up the two slipways, each 600 feet long and 15 feet wide.
The company filled a large expanse of the river foreshore for the dockyard over the last one year and then started building the slipways, but the custodian of the river, the government did not stop the company from grabbing the river. The company secured consent from Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), the Chief Custodian of the river, while BIWTA said they have cancelled the licence of the company for violating some clauses of the terms and conditions few years back. In any case, it is absolutely illegal to carry out development work on river foreshores, let alone occupying the flowing river, without permission.
The BIWTA does not carry out regular drives to monitor the rivers if lessees are violating the terms and conditions. In some cases, the authorities simply turn a blind eye, allowing the grabbers to do whatever they please. It is common among grabbers to manage documents of ownership of shoal land. Later, they gradually fill up the river, altering the river course and the character of the foreshore.  The construction of the dockyard comes amid an eviction drive to free rivers from the clutch of grabbers. Over the last one week, the BIWTA knocked down hundreds of illegal structures set up on the banks of the rivers ?? Buriganga and Karnaphuli.
Around 450 rivers in the country face serious threats because of ruthless grabbing and pollution. To save the rivers, the State must act as the trustee of all rivers, hills, sea beaches, forests, canals and beels and other waterbodies while the National River Protection Commission will remain bound to protect them.

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