Hundreds of local people brought out an joyous procession and organized a discussion marking recovery of the river Shalmara from encroachers at Shalmara Bazar in Pairaband union of Mithapukur upazila in the district on Tuesday.
Earlier, the District Khas Land Management and Distribution Committee at its meeting for May-2022 cancelled the lease of 6.50 acres of land of Shalmara riverbed given to six local influential people more than three and a half decades ago.
Deputy Commissioner Md Asib Ahsan presided over the meeting at his conference room on May 29 last when he cancelled the lease of Shalmara riverbed following a movement of local people under the banner of Shalmara River Protection Committee.
To celebrate the occasion of Shalmara river recovery from encroachers, local people including men, women, adolescents, farmers, fishermen and farm- laborers, gathered at Shalmara Bazar, brought out the rally and arranged a discussion.
Convener of Shalmara River Protection Committee Shah Jalal led the rally and presided over the discussion. Director of Riverine People Bangladesh and Dean of the Faculty of Arts of Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur Professor Dr Tuhin Wadud participated in the Ananda rally and addressed the discussion.
Member-secretary of Shalmara River Protection Committee Mohammad Halim Ranga, its members Azizar Rahman, Mahfuzar Rahman, Rupa Das, fisherman Hem Chandra Das, Shariful Islam, among others, addressed the discussion.
Thanking the district and Mithapukur upazila administrations for cancelling the illegal lease, speakers said encroachers of the Shalmara riverbed filed cases against 72 villagers who protested and launched movement against the illegal lease in the eighties.
Five of the accused, including Shah Jalal, were arrested and sent to jail. However, the court verdict acquitted all of them from the charges brought against them as those were found to be unfounded and untrue.
Local people formed Shalmara River Protection Committee in 2019 with assistance of the Riverine People Bangladesh with Shah Jamal as its Convener. Shalmara River Protection Committee launched a fresh movement to free the river from encroachers and finally, the river was recovered following cancellation of the illegal lease on May 29 last.
Shah Jalal said, " I am very happy to see the river Shalmara in my lifetime at the old age. I was jailed from the purpose in my youthful time. I want nothing more in my life."
Dr Tuhin Wadud said the Shalmara is a traditional river that has enormous importance on public life, environment, ecology, biodiversity and ecosystems. "It has become possible to recover the river at the initiative of organized local people. Earlier, the encroached river Deonai was recovered in Nilphamari at the initiative of Riverine People Bangladesh," he added.