The shipping ministry is set to introduce national awards for the conservation of rivers while green campaigners continue pressing for proper implementation of laws and more effective government organisations to check encroachments and pollutions across the country.
Shipping secretary Md Abdus Samad told New Age on Monday that a draft guideline on river protection award was at the final stage against the backdrop widespread encroachments on the rivers and water pollutions.
He said that government and non-government officials and agencies involved in river conservation would be given awards along with cash, medal and crest in three categories — national, district and upazila — in every year.
According to the draft, Tk 1 lakh in cash and a gold or silver medal would be given to winner/s at the national level.
Winners would get Tk 30,000 in cash and a crest at the district level and Tk 25,000 in cash and a certificate at the upazila level.
The introduction of awards would be announced soon after approval of the cabinet, said Abdus Samad, adding that committees would be appointed at upazila, district and national levels to select the winners.
The move was taken mainly aiming to recognise individuals and groups saving rivers and water bodies from encroachment and pollution, he said.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association executive director Syeda Rizwana Hasan said that it was not a bad idea to recognise unknown river conservators at a remote part of the country and it could strengthen the river protection movement across the country.
She, however, said that awarding river conservators was not the only solution to widespread encroachment and pollution and the ministry of shipping had a lot of things to do like making the National River Conservation Commission more effective.
On February 2, the High Court asked the government to criminalise grabbing of rivers, canals and wetlands amending the National River Conservation Commission Act 2013 in six months, empower the commission prosecute the grabbers, hold investigations against them and impose harsh punishments on the perpetrators.
River conservation commission member Md Alauddin said that the ministry would initiate the process for the amendment to the act with the help of the commission and the commission was yet to receive the copy of the verdict.
Asked about the proposed national guideline on river conservation awards, he said that he had no idea.
The ministry was yet to inform them about the guideline, he said.
Save The River Movement joint-secretary Burhan Uddin Aranno said that they welcomed the government plan to introduce river conservation awards.
He, however, said that campaigners like him would be more encouraged if the government agencies like district council, river conservation commission, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority and the Department of Environment were made more effective.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority which indentified 906 illegal establishments, including 56 multi-storey buildings, on the banks of the Buriganga stretching from Sadarghat to Gabtoli continued with demolition drives.
The authority in January 29-31 evicted 444 illegal establishments, including, two seven-storey buildings and one six-storey building, on the bank of the Buriganga.
Its officials said that not only the Buriganga but also others rivers like Sitalakhya, Balu and Turag, circling the capital city, were encroached indiscriminately while the water of the rivers were polluted by untreated chemicals from industries.
They noted that the encroachment could not be stopped despite repeated eviction drives.
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