12 acres of Meghna leased out illegally
The district administration in Munshiganj violated law by leasing out a 12-acre foreshore and floodplains of the Meghna in Char Betagi, said National River Conservation Commission Chairman Muzibur Rahman Howlader.
“The way Munshiganj district administration leased out vast expanse of the river foreshore and floodplains is unlawful and it has gone against the tenet of saving this arterial river,” he told this correspondent yesterday.
Mentioning that the district administration resorted to irregularities while leasing out the Khas land, he said, “They [district administration] first leased out the Khas land to landless people and then retracted it to give it to a wealthy company.”
This very method is illegal because the character of an area recorded as river in the Cadastral Survey records cannot be altered and handed over to private parties, he added.
Members of National River Conservation Commission (NRCC), including its chairman, visited Char Betagi to inspect the fresh earth filling into the river on Monday.
A day before their visit, The Daily Star published a report on how this piece of unregistered land was leased out to privately owned Anlima Petroleum Limited.
The report also mentioned how the company started filling up the foreshore and floodplains to reclaim highland for establishing its petroleum refinery.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, NRCC Chairman Muzibur also said his commission instructed the deputy commissioner of Munshiganj to immediately stop the ongoing work, cancel the lease and resolve the issue within a week.
The commission has also ordered the authorities to restore the original character of the river area by excavating the already filled up site, he added.
The deputy commissioner of Munshiganj will have to immediately revoke the lease in accordance with section 149/4 of the State Acquisition and Tenancy Act, he said.
According to the NRCC official, they examined other incidents of such river grabbing in Gazaria upazila of Munshiganj and Sonargaon upazila of Narayanganj during their latest visit.
The district commissioners of the two districts were also directed to prepare a list of river grabbers and take legal actions against them, he added.
Muzibur also held the inaction of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, Bangladesh Water Development Board, Department of Environment and the two district administrations responsible for such condition of the Meghna and its tributaries.
Meanwhile, Moniruzzaman Talukdar, deputy commissioner of Munshiganj district, said they halted the earth filling work on the day The Daily Star published its report.
They were now looking into the process of revoking the lease and retracting the river area, he further said.
“My predecessor leased out the river foreshore and floodplains. It is a constraint to me. I will seek opinion of the land ministry in this case,” he added.
Asked why the district administration initiated leasing out the yet-to-be identified land, he said, “It is embarrassing for me to either defend or contradict with this. I was not directly involved in this process.”