Bangladesh has lost a total of 16,400 kilometres of waterways due to negligence and lack of supervision, state minister for shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury told the Jatiya Sangsad on Sunday.
‘There were once 24,000 kilometres of waterways across the country but now there are only 7,600 kilometres,’ he said while replying to a query from ruling Awami League MP Abdul Latif.
Negligence of the authorities concerned, absence of planning and supervision and changes in climate were some of the reasons behind the loss of waterways, Khalid added.
He claimed that the government had increased 1,600 kilometres of river ways by dredging rivers and wetlands.
‘We have a plan to reclaim 10,000 kilometre-long waterways by dredging 178 rivers,’ he disclosed.
Replying to a query from AL MP Ishrafil Alam, the state minister for shipping also said, ‘The authorities have knocked down 15,175 illegal structures and recovered 566 acres of land along the Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitalakhya rivers.’
Providing a breakup, he said that 12,396 illegal structures were dismantled and 372.12 acres of land recovered along the Buriganga, Turag and Balu rivers in Dhaka recently.
On the other hand, 2779 illegal structures were demolished and 194 acres of land recovered along the Shitalakhya River in Narayanganj.
Khalid said that construction of walkways, benches, eco-parks and planting of trees continued on the recovered land to make sure that the banks did not get occupied again in future.
The question-answer session began at the start of the day’s business in parliament.
Lamenting the shipping minister’s JS statement on the disappearance of 16,400 km of waterways, environmentalists said that the waterways were killed by the negligence of the successive governments, their implementation of wrong policies and a massive corruption in the sector.
‘From his statement it seems that such an immense length of waterways has disappeared naturally and we had nothing to do,’ Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan’s joint secretary-general Iqbal Habib told New Age.
He said that the situation would never improve unless the attitude of the responsible people in the government changed.
‘They should seriously take the responsibility of their failure and investigate the matter,’ he further said.
‘We want to know what happened to the thousands of crores of Taka invested in the past years in the name of dredging of the rivers. We have to come out of the culture of impunity and to behave responsibly,’ he observed.
Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan president Abu Naser Khan blamed corruption and negligence of the government agencies such as the Bangladesh Water Development Board, Roads and Highways Department, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority and Local Government and Engineering Department for the loss of the waterways.
‘It’s said that once there was 24,000 km of waterways in the country. Just for the wrong policies of the successive governments in giving importance to the development of roads at the expense of the waterways, the rivers were lost,’ Abu Naser said.
‘Government officials rather allowed the influential businesses and individuals to kill the rivers,’ he said.
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