THE Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority has yet again failed to act independently in reclaiming encroached land of the River Buriganga. The authorities have ignored the report of the National River Conservation Commission, which says that a number of business establishments of the late lawmaker for the Dhaka 14 constituency have grabbed about 20 acres of river land, in putting up demarcation pillars in the river at Basila. The report says that the lawmaker grabbed 12.86 acres of land of the river and 7.85 acres of the foreshore for three power plants and an economic zone. The commission prepared the report on a High Court order and based on a survey conducted by a number of government agencies including the Inland Water Transport Authority, Rajuk and land records office. The engineering department of the water transport authority has, however, installed the pillars saving the property that the lawmaker developed on encroached land. The port officer concerned in this connection says that they are not responsible for executing the commission report as reclaiming canals is the responsibility of the district administration and Rajuk. This is, however, not the first instance of the water transport authority to have preferentially treated the politically influential encroachers in eviction drives.
In 2011, the lawmaker in question established the CLC Power Company on the Turag-Buriganga confluence, evicting many from their land. The power plant is reported to have intensified sedimentation to the extent that it is blocking the channels of both the rivers. In March 2019, the authorities demolished 60 structures on the Turag in Keraniganj, but the power plant was left untouched. The authorities that time sought the shipping ministry’s permission to demolish the lawmaker’s establishment. Two years later, the authorities concerned showed the same lenience towards politically influential encroachers. During the protracted legal battle over the land, the BIWTA eviction team at one point demolished parts of the plant, but the officer who led the drive is reported to have later been transferred. The commission has prepared the report on the court order that rejected the lawmaker’s claim to the land and paved the way for the canal reclamation. The recent installation of pillars, ignoring the commission report, therefore, amounts to contempt of court. It is evident the government has been partial and unequal in enforcing laws and policy decisions in this regard.
The government must remember that the constitution requires the state to protect and conserve its natural resources, including wetland and water bodies. It must, therefore, take action against encroachers irrespective of their political influence and ensure that the commission report is strictly followed in reclaiming the land encroached by the power plant. There are laws to stop encroachment; but they are just not effectively enforced.
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