Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan has admitted that the government efforts to free riverbanks from encroachers are being hampered by influential people.
“They obstruct eviction drive. They are mostly owners of industries and also involved in politics with various political parties,” he said after a meeting of the taskforce on river protection at his ministry on Tuesday.
The minister said the taskforce had decided to take legal steps against those found obstructing the efforts to save the rivers across the country from encroachment and pollution.
The taskforce has been conducting drive to remove illegal structures from the banks and foreshores of four rivers of Dhaka district – Buriganga, Shitalakkhya, Turag and Balu. Besides, it has been working on stopping illegal lifting of sand from riverbeds, restoring navigability of the rivers, and constructing boundary pillars, walls and walkways on the riverbanks.
Shajahan, also chairman of the taskforce, said the meeting decided to evict all illegal installations and other installations approved by the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) from the city embankments along the Buriganga river from Gabtoli to Sadarghat by June this year. The Water Development Board (WDB) and the Dhaka district administration will jointly conduct the task.
He assured that the victims would be compensated.
Referring to the progress of the eviction drive against encroachment and installation of boundary pillars along the riverbanks of Dhaka and nearby three districts, he said some 8,100 pillars had already been installed along 220-km shorelines on the 110-km stretch of Buriganga, Shitalakkhya, Turag, Balu and Dhaleshwari rivers flowing through Dhaka and its nearby districts of Narayanganj, Munshiganj and Gazipur.
Moreover, a total of four committees comprising seven members each headed by Deputy Commissioners have been formed in the four districts to protect the rivers, including Buriganga and Sitalakhya, surrounding Dhaka city.
“The committees will submit progress report in this regard by June next,” Shajahan said.
The shipping minister said that another 10-member committee headed by the BIWTA chairman had been formed to keep the rivers free from pollution and encroachers and that it had been asked to submit its findings by June.