'Corruption and political power' makes illegal sand lifting legal
ILLEGAL sand lifting from the major rivers, particularly Padma and Jamuna, has continued for years, although the government stopped leasing the sand fields in 2010 following an injunction by the court. With the growing demand of sand due to the increase in development works during the last few years, influential people got involved in massive sand extraction at different points of rivers. The unplanned sand lifting that involves business worth hundreds of crore of taka every year causes frequent erosion in the riverbank areas. Hundreds of villagers in the riverbank areas face similar problems due to the indiscriminate sand lifting in the last few years.
Local influentials have been lifting sand from the Padma River in Pabna using around 200 dredgers. The perpetrators extract 3-5 lakh cft sand every day in absence of minimum monitoring of the government. Illegal sand lifting is also rampant at different places of the Jamuna River in Pabna's Bera Upazila. Encroachers extract approximately 20 to 25 lakh cft sand from different points of the major rivers in the district and it brings around Tk 2 crore daily.
The demand for sand has rapidly increased in the last few years due to several development works, especially the construction of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant and Padma Bridge. And so, the sand traders are extracting sand from the river for supply to development project sites. As there is no official step to lease the sand fields, the traders are extracting sand in this way.
Many public representatives in the river areas, mostly local AL men, are directly or indirectly involved with the sand lifting from rivers while a section of political bigwigs and corrupt officials are backing them. Besides, illegal sand lifting from the Kumar River in Faridpur, Kapotakkho River in Jhenaidah, Balu and Turag in Tongi is rampant.
Sand lifting is necessary to maintain the navigability of the river. Dredging up to five-foot circumference in a certain area is acceptable but the sand lifters hardly follow the rule. However, continuous sand lifting with dredgers at a place creates big holes, which leads to massive erosion in the riverbank areas. In most cases, the involvement of the influentials has meant that the actions continue unabated. We need national initiatives to tackle these cases of ubiquitous corruption and the patron-client relationship between local goons and political high-ups to stop the illegal sand lifting.