The BIWTA yesterday sent two diggers to Kanchpur bridge on the Shitalakkhya to evict sand traders who occupied the river way beyond the walkway, marked in red, built on the bank. Photo: Amran Hossain
At least Tk18 lakh has so far been wasted from public exchequer to carry out six eviction drives against the encroachers of the river Shitalakkhya at a single site, but encroachment continues unabated under the very nose of three government authorities.
During the eviction drives in last three years, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) along with the Narayanganj district administration and police had evicted illegal sand traders in Shimrail mouja of Siddhirganj near the Kanchpur Bridge, said officials.
But each time the encroachers came back soon after the eviction drive ended and continued with their illegal trade almost halving the river.
Yesterday, the three authorities embarked on yet another three-day eviction drive at the same site of the river with a single excavator to remove an estimated seven lakh cubic feet of soil.
Each time the issue is reported in mass media, the authorities wake up and hold a media show of evicting the encroachers and leaves it out until the matter again gets public attention, said a local shopkeeper, requesting anonymity.
“Eviction is a mere drama as illegal traders continue their business encroaching upon the river in connivance with all the three authorities concerned. As a result, the custodian turned corrupt cartel thrived at the cost of the river,” he added.
There was no driver for one of the diggers, as of 1:00pm when this photographer left the scene. The other digger started work rather late and loaded only a few unmarked trucks to take the sand to an undisclosed location. Photo: Amran Hossain
Illegal sand traders have encroached on an approximate five-kilometre stretch of the river foreshores from Amber Paper Mills to Demra, said local residents.
Alamgir Kabir, a BIWTA deputy director, admitted to have carried out at least six three-day eviction drives at this very site over the past three years at an average expense of Tk1 lakh a day.
But the BIWTA cannot retain the freed site of the river as it has no police or magistrate under its command, he said.
The BIWTA, he added, has so far filed 70 cases with police against illegal sand traders and requested the district administration for mobile court action, but to no avail.
Abdul Matin, officer-in-charge of Siddhirganj Police Station, said, “It's not my duty to guard the river boundary. The BIWTA is the responsible authority to do it. We just help them when necessary.”
A High Court bench in 2009 had ordered all relevant police stations and district administration to take action against any incident of river encroachment within their jurisdiction, no matter whether any case was filed or not, said Alamgir Kabir.
OC Md Rezaul Haque of Sonargaon Police Station said the BIWTA has not filed a single case with them in connection with river encroachment.
Md Asaduzzaman, OC of Rupganj Police Station, too said no such case has been lodged with them.
Monoj Kanti Baral, deputy commissioner of Narayanganj, said he was not aware of the BIWTA's request for mobile court action.
“Neither they [BIWTA] conserve the river accordingly, nor do they inform us on time of any encroachment of the river,” he noted.