Indiscriminate encroachment and uncontrolled pollution keep killing rivers. Dockyards set up on encroached areas of the River Buriganga, from Kholamora at Keraniganj and Dharmaganj in Narayanganj, have run illegally for decades. The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority has finally initiated an eviction drive to reclaim river areas encroached over the years. Since the drive began in in January, 10.5 acres of land were reclaimed and the government plans to set up some 12,000 demarcation pillars along the rivers around the capital to save them from being encroached. The state minister for shipping assured the public that eviction order would be executed, no matter what. In reality, the authorities appear to be hesitant when it comes to pulling down a power plant owned by a ruling party member of the parliament; they sought opinions of the shipping minister on the matter. On March 7, authorities demolished 60 structures on the River Turag at Keraniganj, but the power plant was left untouched, proving yet again that the government has been partial and unequal in enforcing laws and policies.
In 2011, the CLC Power Company owned by ruling party member of parliament in question erected part of the plant on the Turag-Buriganga confluence, encroaching on river and dispossessing many people from their land. According to Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan, the power plant intensified sedimentation to the extent that it is blocking the channels of both the rivers. No conclusive data are available on the contribution of the plant to the national grid. In this context, the state minister’s comment that he would decide after determining the total area encroached and the plant’s contribution to the national grid appears to be an attempt at making excuse to protect an illegally built power plant. The owner of the plant, meanwhile, claimed that the plant was constructed on encroached land with due permission from authorities including BIWTA, the shipping ministry’s task force on saving rivers and the environment department. The claim exposes the complicity, lenience and negligence of the authorities that prompted deaths of many rivers. The government should, therefore, immediately execute the demolition order and bring to justice the officials involved in approving the plant.
According to a Riverine People research, 29 rivers, flowing by the cities, have seriously been affected by industrial pollution and encroachment. There are allegations against the government that it is lenient and bending laws for encroachers with political influence. The hesitance to demolish the power plant in question further substantiates the claim and shows that government’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards rivers encroachers carries no weight. It is time that the government translated its policy of ‘zero tolerance’ towards river encroachment into action and realised that as an agricultural economy, providing for the livelihood of the majority of citizen, is dependent on rivers.
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