The National River Conservation Commission has prepared a list of 29,459 grabbers of river land based on the data sent by the deputy commissioners of 41 districts.
Savar uapzila nirbahi officer sent a list of 65 river grabbers though the DC of Dhaka has not yet sent any list for his district, NRCC chairman Muzibur Rahman Howlader told New Age on Thursday.
The list shows 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 encroached on by hundreds of people in different districts.
‘Influential people of the society like politicians, businessmen and musclemen have mostly occupied the river land in collaboration with government officials,’ Howlader said, adding that the names of the grabbers will be made public soon after verification.
The number of grabbers would go up when the DCs of big cities and towns like Dhaka, Sylhet, Barishal, Rangpur, Mymensingh, Narayanganj and Gazipur would send their lists, NRCC officials said.
On February 4, the NRCC chairman requested the DCs to send the lists of encroachers of rivers, canals and water bodies in their respective districts by the end of the month after a High Court Division passed a verdict in this regard on February 3.
Following the verdict, the NRCC chief also asked the district administrators to display the grabbers’ lists on notice boards at their offices and post them on their official websites.
The DCs were also asked by the commission to send time-bound action plans for dismantling all illegal structures on the banks of rivers, and on canals and water bodies.
The HC in its verdict disqualified the grabbers from contesting the elections and from borrowing money from the banks.
The NRCC list of 29,459 river grabbers in 41 district shows that the highest number of river grabbers are in Cumilla, followed by Noakhali.
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.
The number of encroachers of 12 Chattogram rivers including the Karnaphuli, Halda, Feni and Matamuhuri are 2,178 while in Faridpur 1,843 are illegally possessing 11 rivers’ land, including on or along the Padma, Gorai, Kumar and Arial Khan.
In Barguna, 1,554 grabbers have occupied 14 rivers’ land, including on and along the Andharmanik, Aila, Golachipa, Payra and Bishakha.
In Natore, 1,484 grabbers have encroached on 11 rivers’ land, including Atrai, Gur and Boral.
The DC of Chuadanga has sent a list of 1,283 occupiers who have illegally taken possession of land on or along six rivers including Kumar, Chitra and Kapotakkha while the Water Development Board has sent a separate list of 425 grabbers for the district.
In Dinajpur, 1,047 encroachers have grabbed land of 17 rivers including Atrai, Karotoa, Ichhamoti and Punarbhaba.
NRCC officials have expressed surprise seeing unusually small numbers of occupiers in Munshiganj, Narsingdi and Manikganj districts while all the rivers of the districts have been grabbed.
The DC of Munshiganj has sent a list of only 57 grabbers, the DC of Narshingdi a list of 250 encroachers while the DC of Manikganj has sent a list of 139 occupiers.
The deputy commissioners of Panchagarh and Gaibandha districts have officially told the commission that there is no river, canal or water bodies in the districts.
Sylhet DC M Kazi Emdadul Islam, Rangpur DC Enamul Habib, Mymensingh DC Subhash Chandra Biswas, Gazipur DC Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir and Bogura DC Fayez Ahmed have claimed that they have already sent the lists of the river grabbers to the NRCC.
Fayez also claimed that 30 grabbers of the Karotoa had already been evicted.
Barishal DC SM Ajior Rahman said that making the list of grabbers in his district was under process. ‘We are differentiating between the people who have developed structures on the rivers with the permission of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority and those who had not taken such permission,’ he said.
Dhaka district’s additional deputy commissioner (Land) Abul Fateh Muhammad Shafiqul Islam said that they had asked the BIWTA, the Water Development Board and the WASA to send their lists of grabbers.
‘After getting their lists, we will compile those incorporating information from our field officials,’ he said.
Narayanganj DC Rabbi Mia could not be contacted for comments.
NRCC research and monitoring deputy director Ashok Kumar Biswas claimed that there was no chance of dropping out any grabbers from the lists sent by the district administrations while compiling those centrally.
‘We know that some DCs claim that they have [already] sent the lists of the river grabbers, but we have not yet received any list from 23 districts,’ he said.
River commission chairman Howlader asserted that the commission would wait and keep reminding the DCs to send the lists of the river grabbers.
He also said that the DCs who had sent the lists had not started eviction drives due to scarcity of fund following the HC verdict.
‘I have informed the issue to the cabinet division secretary and the land ministry secretary,’ he said.
Land secretary M Maksudur Rahman Patwari said that the fund for conducting eviction drives on and along rivers for the current fiscal year was spent up.
‘We will request the Finance Division to allocate more money for the eviction drive in the next fiscal year,’ he said.
In the 2018-2019 Fiscal Year, only Tk 75 lakh was allocated for conducting eviction drives in 64 districts, land ministry officials said.