The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) yesterday launched an eviction drive to remove all structures of the illegal river port on the bank of Hurasagar river at Brishalikha in Pabna’s Bera upazila.
A mobile court, led by shipping ministry’s Deputy Secretary Habibur Rahman Hakim, demolished all the eight ghats, four connecting roads and an office room of the illegal port, which was allegedly built and managed by Bera Municipality Mayor Abdul Baten, also the president of Bera Awami League.
The mobile court also seized nine vessels berthed at the port and detained nine staffers of the vessels. All of them were fined Tk 30,000 each, in default of which they will have to serve three months in prison.
Businessmen and porters staged a demonstration protesting the drive that started around 9:00am.
Habibur said the Baghabari port, an authorised port managed by the BIWTA and only 10km away from the port in question, had been incurring a huge loss as most of the goods-laden vessels landed at the illegal river port to avert the fees.
No one has the right to run a river port illegally without BIWTA’s permission, said Habibur, also the executive magistrate of the mobile court.
“The drive will continue until all the structures, including the warehouses, in the port area are demolished,” he added.
Meanwhile, businessmen in the port area expressed indignation at the sudden drive. They demanded seven days to have their goods shifted from the warehouses, but were granted only two days.
“More than a hundred businessmen had been running wholesale businesses in the port by employing some 10,000 labourers. The sudden drive destroyed the income sources of all,” said Abdul Halim, a trader at the port.
BIWTA Chairman Commodore Mahabubul Alam visited the spot during the drive.
During the visit, the chairman said the illegal port was being run in violation of the Ports Act, 1908.
The Daily Star published a report titled “Mayor running illegal ‘river port’” on November 5. Following that, the cabinet division ordered the BIWTA to take necessary action.