Powerful quarters with support from government officials continue to encroach on the Karnaphuli flouting the High Court division’s order requiring removal of all illegal structures on the river on which the country’s premier seaport is located.
None of the 2,181 illegal structures has been removed from the important river since the High Court Division issued the order on August 16, 2016.
Instead, more than 100 new structures have been built illegally on both the Karnaphuli banks further choking its 16 km stretch from its estuary, according to investigations done by the National River Conservation Commission in the last month.
Among the new structures are jetties, dry docks, a privately owned special economic zone, brick kilns, buildings, boat clubs and other structures, all built flouting the court order as well as existing laws for protecting rivers and water bodies as well as the Environment Protection Act 995 and Article 18 of the Constitution.
‘No action was taken so far to implement National River Conservation Commission’s 16-point recommendation to Chittagong Port Authority, the deputy commissioner of Chattogram and the other relevant agencies, said NRCC chairman Muzibur Rahman Howlader.
He said that these structures were obstructing the river’s water flows as well as causing erosion and siltation.
He said that powerful quarters built these new structures on the Karnaphuli banks with support from government officials.
Bangladesh Lighter Ship Workers Union general secretary Nabi Alam a master of ship said that siltation in the Karnaphuli River increased manifold over the last three decades keeping pace with the encroachments.
The national river commission in a report in December expressed concern over long term leasing out of 8.07 acres of khash land on the Karnaphuli bank by the deputy commissioner of Chattogram to privately owned Karnaphuli Dry Dock Limited in 2008.
The owners of the dry dock company is also developing a special economic zone on a 65.2478-acre area in Anwara upazila on the bank of Karnaphuli River very close to the estuary.
Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority in September 2017, issued pre-qualification license to Tk 12 billion Karnaphuli Dry-Dock Special Economic Zone project for making water vessels and dredgers with overhauling facilities.
BEZA officials said spot verification was not their duty while giving permission to new projects.
Karnaphuli Dry-Dock Special Economic Zone project’s managing director Abdur Rashid posed the question, ‘Under what authority the national river commission asked government agencies to evict special economic zone from the Karnaphuli bank?’
‘The river commission chairman is misusing his powers on the issue since 13 agencies gave us permission,’ Rashid told New Age.
Chattogram district administration could not carry out the evictions as despite request made last year the land ministry did not provide the needed fund of Tk 1.20 crore to the district administration, additional deputy commissioner Mohammad Delowar Hossain told New Age.
Chittagong Port Authority will have to carry out eviction in areas under its jurisdiction, he said.
‘The question of evicting jetties and other structures developed with permission from the CPA does not arise ,’ said CPA deputy manager Zillur Rahman.
‘The CPA is authorized to give these permissions,’ Zillur said.
‘Karnaphuli Dry-Dock Special Economic Zone got permission from the DC office and the BEZA. I don’t know what the river commission said in its report,’ he added.
Transparency International Bangladesh’s executive director Iftekharuzzaman said that the government lacked the will to address the problem as the government officials are directly involved with these illegal activities.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association chief executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said that the authorities concerned and the encroachers can in no way avoid the burden of contempt of court.
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