Prime Minister should fulfill her words to save Buriganga, others around Dhaka

The Daily Star September 8, 2012

Green activists yesterday urged the prime minister for taking necessary steps to stop the setting up of demarcation pillars in an unfair manner along the four Dhaka rivers, and remove the encroachers.

The demands were placed at a rally held in front of Jatiya Press Club when they said officials of the four district administrations concerned did not set up the boundary pillars properly.

District admins have no answers

Remove illegal structures, free Buriganga

Unabated river encroachment

Cover Story – Star Weekend Magazine

The rivers — Buriganga, Balu, Turag and Shitalakkhya — were being demarcated in line with the water flow line of the lean season in violation of a High Court judgment in 2009, said speakers at the rally.

Demarcation is also ongoing along Dhaleshwari, on the outskirts of the capital.

The speakers strongly demanded that the rivers be demarcated considering their highest level where water reaches in monsoon.

Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa) and Green Voice jointly organised the rally to press home their demands.

Following The Daily Star-Channel i media campaign and a writ petition to save the Dhaka rivers from mindless grabbing and pollution, the HC in June 2009 ordered the district administrations of Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Munshiganj to follow Cadastral Survey of 1913, and Revised Survey of 1983, to ascertain the original positions of the rivers and demarcate those, including foreshores.

The HC also said the deputy commissioners of the districts would be held responsible in person for any negligence in the demarcation work.

The BIWTA started the demarcation work in cooperation with the district administrations on April 12 last year following the HC order and directives of the river taskforce.

Bapa General Secretary Abdul Matin said the authorities concerned were not following the HC order while setting up the boundary pillars. “It will give scopes to the existing encroachers to become legal and encourage others,” he added.

He feared that if the demarcation work was completed this way, then it would become a weapon for the encroachers to grab hundreds of acres of river lands across the country.

It is time to be united at the national-level against this kind of activities, said M Jakir Hossain Khan, project coordinator of Transparency International Bangladesh.

Convener of the national committee to protect oil-gas-power and port Sheikh Mohammad Shahidullah, former director general of Hawr O Joladhar Unnayan Board M Inamul Haque, joint secretaries of Bapa JK Boral and Sharif Jamil, and Coordinator of Green Voice Humayun Kabir Suman addressed the rally.

Sharif Jamil, also the Buriganga Riverkeeper, told The Daily Star yesterday that following a detailed presentation on the irregularities in setting up the pillars by Bapa two to three months back, three review committees headed by the deputy commissioners were formed.

“How can we expect fair judgment from these committee heads who are responsible for the wrongdoings?” he wondered.

On September 5, environmentalists and social activists at a meeting came down heavily on the administration of four districts. Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) organised the meeting at its office on how to prevent river pollution and encroachment.

Representatives of the deputy commissioners’ offices of Dhaka and Narayanganj at the meeting, however, could not give any satisfactory reply to the allegations.

Sharif Jamil at the meeting said, “Many pillars are seen in the middle of the rivers. It seems the government is legitimising river encroachers.”

In response, Mahbubul Islam, Narayanganj additional deputy commissioner, said a change in water flow over the decades could be one of the reasons behind that.