A sign at Sharifnagar of Kamrangirchar in the capital claiming that the seven acre “land” belongs to Rab-10, which in reality is a channel of the Buriganga. The government yesterday finally cancelled the allocation. Photo: Amran Hossain
The national river taskforce at a special meeting yesterday decided to cancel the land allotment to the Rapid Action Battalion in the original channel of the Buriganga.
The taskforce, however, spared three other official allotments of land in the river channel to different authorities.
It asked the Dhaka district administration to find an alternative site for Rab-10, Shaikh Yusuf Harun, deputy commissioner of Dhaka, told The Daily Star.
The decision came following a visit by six ministers to the Buriganga on Sunday to see the actual state of the river amid rampant encroachment of its land and pollution of water.
“Allotting land in the original channel of the Buriganga to the Rab was not appropriate,” Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan told this correspondent after the meeting.
The Rab has to move to somewhere else if the river area was to be saved, he added.
The land ministry through the district administration in 2010 had leased out seven acres of “land” to the Rab in the Buriganga channel near Loharpul in Kamrangirchar. The lease was given under a registered deed for 99 years.
The elite force planned to set up its permanent office building and residential quarters for its staff, filling up the channel.
The ministry in a similar process also leased out land to different authorities for setting up a national power grid sub-station, a 250-bed public hospital and a school in this part of the river which is popularly known as the Buriganga second channel.
Asked why the other land allotments were not cancelled, the minister said, “It's not possible to reclaim cent percent land of the river. We are trying to save as much land as we can.”
Shaikh Yusuf Harun said nothing called the Buriganga original channel would have existed if the authorities failed to save the seven-acre land.
But it would not be possible to relocate the hospital as it has already been built, he mentioned.
Yesterday's meeting formed a 13-member inter-ministerial committee, said taskforce chair Shajahan Khan. The committee has been asked to find out ways to evict all encroachers and reclaim the channel.
The Buriganga original channel had been active and used to connect the Turag river at Gabtoli and Aati canal until the Dhaka embankment was built in the late 80s.
The channel spread over a nearly five-kilometre stretch from Chandnighat to Rayerbazar across Lalbagh, Nawabganj, Hazaribagh and Mohammadpur, half of which has now been grabbed.
According to a report by assistant commissioner (land) of the Dhaka district administration in February last year, the river is filled up in Kamrangirchar and Kalunagar as over 100 encroachers have grabbed its land.
The city corporation has filled up a stretch of the channel from Loharpul to Companyghat dumping solid wastes, said the report.
The grabbers include powerful real estate firms, a ballpoint pen manufacturer, a battery manufacturer, fuel refilling stations and private individuals.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority under a scheme for Dhaka river port development in 2007 had intended to establish a harbour in the channel and take it over so that river vessels could berth there as the Sadarghat river port area suffers from space constraints.
But the district administration never handed over the channel to the BIWTA for navigation purposes and conservation.