The inland water transport authority's eviction drive to make the Gazipur part of the Turag river encroachment-free yesterday turned into a farce due to its poor planning and lack of equipment.
The authorities failed to mobilise some basic equipment to remove earth filling and concrete structures as the river had been narrowed down by encroachment, said officials involved in the drive.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) along with Gazipur district administration and police launched the two-day drive near Dhour Bridge under Bhakral mouja.
They engaged an excavator, a few labourers and small workboats to remove 63 illegal establishments on the river.
Lack of coordination among the three authorities became apparent during the drive. The executive magistrate and on-duty police official differed with the BIWTA officials on encroachment.
Sub-Inspector Mannan of Dhaka range police was heard arguing with the BIWTA officials, saying: "The High Court ordered the eviction (of illegal structures) and not anyone's arrest."
When this correspondent pointed out that an HC judgment in 2009 had ordered the police to keep rivers under constant surveillance, Mannan said, "Did any such order reach the hands of police?”
Mohammad Abdus Salam, executive magistrate of Gazipur, said "It is not possible to get the exact location of a river or wetland without a survey."
The authorities began the drive by removing earth filling on a nearly one acre area in the middle of the river. There were also reinforced concrete pillars and strong timber fencing in the area owned by some Major Alam.
A single excavator was deployed to carry out the task without any proper technical plan that paved the way for contradictory statements among the officials involved in the drive.
At one stage of the drive, BIWTA Director Md Abul Bashar began shouting at BIWTA assistant director Bashir Ali Khan for giving wrong directives to the excavator driver and delaying the work.
"I will never come to conduct such farcical drama in the name of eviction," said an angry Bashar. "I was told that 50 labourers equipped with heavy hammers were hired but I do not see even five of them."
About the inadequacy of equipment and manpower, BIWTA Joint Director Saiful Islam told The Daily Star, "We need a tugboat to pull down reinforced concrete walls built on the river. But we cannot mobilise such a boat due to several low-height bridges across the river."
He said the BIWTA had targeted three major encroachments, including the sand filling area, a 16,000-square feet concrete wall erected by the East West University authorities and Shajid Washing Ltd in Machhimpur mouja.
The authorities, however, could only break the concrete pillars on the sand filling area yesterday.
Earlier in 2009, the joint authorities carried out an eviction drive in the Gazipur part of the Turag. Most of the evicted encroachers along with many new ones have come back, said Saiful.