DCs asked to free rivers from encroachment in a month

July 31, 2013

River grabbers to face stern action: task force
The government on Tuesday asked the deputy commissioners and superintendents of police in all districts, including Dhaka, to take action against river grabbers in a month and free the waterways from encroachments. The task force responsible for ensuring navigability and natural flow of the rivers Buriganga, Shitalakkhya, Balu, Turag and other rivers across the country gave the directive at its 22nd meeting presided over by shipping minister Shajahan Khan at the secretariat.
‘Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority has been asked to file cases against the river grabbers… The DCs and SPs will take measures to free the rivers from the grabbers at any cost within a month,’ Shajahan Khan told a briefing after the meeting.
He agreed that the government agencies had failed to evict those encroaching on rivers despite several moves as the grabbers had links to powerful quarters.
‘This time we have given instructions to issue warrants for arrest of those grabbing the rivers. Anyone encroaching onto rivers will have to face criminal charges,’ the minister said.
The task force also asked the authorities concerned for action against the house owners who had connected their sewerage lines with the storm water drainage system, ultimately polluting the rivers around Dhaka city.
Similar instructions were given at the 18th meeting of the task force in August last year.
The house owners were directed to construct septic tanks and relocate their sewerage lines in a week, Shajahan said.
Land minister Rezaul Karim Hira and officials from the agencies concerned, among others, attended the meeting.
The task force earlier had asked the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority for identifying the house owners who had illegally connected their sewerage lines with the storm water drainage system causing serious pollutions to the river water.
More than 10 million residents of Dhaka city produce about 3,200 tonnes of solid
waste a day and around 80 per cent of the city’s sewage, in addition to 40,000 tonnes of untreated toxic industrial waste, is reportedly released directly into the Buriganga every day, threatening the existence of the river.
But WASA itself disposes of untreated liquid wastes through at least 52 points as the state-run agency does not have adequate facilities to treat the contaminated water before its release into the rivers, officials said.
The minister admitted that the city corporations as well the WASA were responsible for pollutions in the rivers surrounding the city.
The head of the task force said they had taken measures to evict illegal occupants from the river banks and complete the on-going demarcation of the four rivers around Dhaka city to restore the original territory of the rivers.
The moves came against the backdrop of the authorities’ continued failure to protect the rivers from grabbing and pollution, particularly by industrial and household wastes, despite several initiatives in the past. The government could not even carry out the High Court’s directives to the effect.
The High Court in June 2009 directed the deputy commissioners of Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj and Munshiganj, and other officials, including the BIWTA chairman, to demarcate the rivers of Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitalakkhya by survey.
Earlier the High Court in May directed the government to take appropriate steps to stop encroachment, earth-filling and construction of illegal structures on the Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitalakkhya rivers.
The authorities took no action to stop sand trading or remove the heaps of sand from the banks of Turag in the capital and Shitalakkhya at Narayanganj though the 15-day deadline set by the High Court expired on November 21, 2012.
On November 6, in response to a public interest writ petition, the High Court had directed the authorities concerned to take both the actions in 15 days.
The two rivers are endangered by land grabbing on the banks by the sand traders. The rivers are shrinking due to constant movement of hundreds of trucks they load on the riverbanks.

-With New Age input

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