46,742 river grabbers spotted in 61 districts

Ershad Kamol | Published at 12:00am on September 12, 2019

Deputy commissioners of 61 districts informed the National River Conservation Commission of 46,742 grabbers rivers and canals till Wednesday, the commission chairman Muzibur Rahman Howlader told New Age.

Dhaka district administration on Wednesday sent a list of 959 grabbers of five rivers and several canals, he said, adding that process was on to uploading of the list on its website.

He also said that he would send demi-official orders to deputy commissioners of Mymensingh, Panchagarh and Gaibandha reminding them of sending lists of grabbers immediately.

Since July 24, the commission started publishing the lists of grabbers of the rivers and canals sent to them by the district administrations on its website on different terms.

The lists show that land on and along all the major rivers in the country, such as the Padma, Meghna, Jamuna, Brahmaputra, Surma, Pashur and Karnaphuli, have been grabbed by hundreds of people in different districts.

‘Influential people like politicians, businessmen and musclemen have mostly occupied the river land in collaboration with government officials,’ Howlader said.  

He said that he had been pursuing the DCs since February 4 to send the lists of grabbers of rivers, canals and water bodies in their respective districts by the end of February following a High Court order.

On February 3, a day after a High Court Division passed a verdict asking the commission to make a list of grabbers of the rivers, canals and other water bodies and to display those for the public.

The High Court in its verdict disqualified the grabbers from contesting the elections and from borrowing money from the banks.

The highest number of river grabbers was in Cumilla, followed by Noakhali, show lists.

In Cumilla, 5,589 grabbers have encroached on land on and along 15 rivers including the Meghna, Gumti, Titas and Dakatia while 4,389 people have illegally occupied land on and along Noakhali’s seven rivers including Meghna, Dakatia and Feni.

In Chattogram 2,178 encroachers grabbed lands of 12 rivers including the Karnaphuli, Halda, Feni and Matamuhuri.

But, the commission officials were surprised seeing the small number of occupiers in Munshiganj, Narsingdi and Manikganj as all the rivers of the districts had been grabbed.

As per lists sent by deputy commissioners, there were only 50 grabbers in Munshiganj, 250 grabbers in Narsinghdi and 139 grabbers in Manikganj,

Though Dhaka deputy commissioner sent a list of 959 grabbers, the commission officials found it very low compared to the reality.

Gaibandha deputy commissioner M Abdul Matin said they did not send any list as they already removed all grabbers from nine rivers flowing through the district.

Panchagarh deputy commissioner Sabina Yasmin said that she was on leave for the past few days and would look into the matter.

Mymensingh deputy commissioner of M Mizanur Raghman said they were demarcating 16 river rivers to identify the grabbers.

River commission chairman Howlader asserted that the commission would continue to remind the deputy commissioners on updating the lists of grabbers and ask them to send time-bound action plans for dismantling all illegal structures.

Funds were sought from land ministry for operating eviction drives across the country for freeing the rivers, canals and water bodies from the grabbers, he added.

Land secretary M Maksudur Rahman Patwari said that they would request the Finance Division to allocate more money for the eviction drive in the next fiscal year.