Encroachers reoccupying Buriganga banks

Despite strict ban on constructing infrastructures on the banks of Buriganga River, illegal encroachers continue to defy the law and construct fresh new infrastructures. Earlier last month and the month before, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) and Dhaka District Administration demolished all illegally constructed establishments including high-rise buildings, factories and shops in order to protect the Buriganga River.

Sources say that the banks of the river are being re-occupied in the name of ruling party organization to evade legal action. The fresh establishments include mostly buildings and other infrastructures which were built with the help of the local influential quarters. On February 12, BIWTA conducted an eviction drive at Kuraghat area by the banks of the river under Kamrangirchar police station in the capital. At that time, all the illegal infrastructure were demolished. Now, after three months of that drive, some encroachers, in cooperation with local influential people have again occupied the evicted river banks.

During a recent visit to the area, this correspondent found that Eid fair has been set up at the east side of 31 bed hospital at Kurahat while other side has been used as a terminal of rickshaw, van and pickup van. There are allegations against some local leaders who realise money for renting out the places on the river banks. BIWTA, meanwhile, bulldozed at least 2,711 illegal structures along Buriganga and Turag rivers during three phases of two months long eviction drive that started on January 29.

According to BIWTA officials, at that time, the BIWTA reclaimed around 58 acres of land occupied on the river banks from the illegal occupiers. In the drive, the authority penalised Tk 1.35 lakh for occupying river lands illegally and collected Tk 36.60 lakh from the illegal occupiers as unpaid lease money. On February 12, during BIWTA eviction drive, Dhaka-2 Constituency MP Qamrul Islam inaugurated a Shahid Minar and Kamrangirchar Sports and Cultural Development Club. The club and the Shaheed Minar were built under the leadership of local councilor Mohammad Hossain. Recently, construction of four more permanent structures or houses were also started in the club area.

Denying the allegations of taking money from the local people, the ward councilor Mohammad Hossain told Bangladesh Post, “Some poor people organised an Eid fair in this place as they found the empty place whereas some people are using this area as rickshaw, van-parking zone.” The fair will continue for one and half weeks after Eid, Hossain said, adding that the place is only about 50 to 60 feet wide and 800 to 900 feet long, which is not a matter of concern.

Asked about the river land belonging to BIWTA, he said, “Sports club and Shaheed Minar were very much needed for our people. We cooperated with BIWTA to evict the illegal infrastructures from this area. Now, we will propose to the Mayor to establish a children’s park in this place as there is no park in Kamrangirchar region.”

However, the BIWTA authorities concerned said that nobody would be allowed to grab the river lands or riverbanks. Contacted, Professor Emeritus of BRAC University Ainun Nishat, also a renowned environmentalist, said that BIWTA demolished the structures, which occupied rivers banks. According to his opinion, “To ensure the proper flow of the river, the authorities concerned should excavate the banks to allow flow of the river waters. Otherwise, encroachers or local influential quarters will reoccupy the recovered land.”