The state-owned Ashuganj Power Station Company Limited (APSCL) is filling the Meghna bank with sand to construct a new unit near Sohagpur village. The sand is being extracted from the river bed.
Locals allege that the administration is sitting idle.
Filling up the river bank without permission from the Department of Environment is a criminal offence, yet the company has already filled up around eight acres of the river bank and adjacent low-lying land claiming that it is their land.
Meanwhile, a team of the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) yesterday visited the spot and asked the APSCL to stop filling up the river.
"We will submit a report after verifying the land documents and talking to all related government agencies. However, river is the main priority of the NRCC. So, we will see whether they [APSCL] are hampering the flow of the river or not," said Md Shafiullah, deputy chief hydrologist of the NRCC, after visiting the spot.
The move of APSCL came to the fore after one Nasir Mia, of Sohagpur village in Ashuganj, filed a complaint with the NRCC chairman.
He also complained to the deputy director of the BIWTA in Ashuganj and Bhairab river ports.
In the complaint, Nasir said the way the APSCL is filling up the river bank, it would hamper the flow of this river. If filling up of the river continued, it might cause the power transmission tower of the national power grid in Char Sonarampur and the Ashuganj river port to go into the river.
Earlier, the APSCL authorities tried to acquire about 300 acres of agricultural land in the vicinity of Sohagpur and Bahadurpur mouzas along the Meghna river, adjacent to the residential complex (B-type) of the company's officials.
But the authorities had to stop in the face of villagers' resistance. Later, they started illegally filling up the Meghna as an alternative, the complainant said.
While visiting the area, this correspondent found that the APSCL authorities were filling up the area after constructing long boundary wall about 2km north from the Ashuganj river port. The filling work is almost in the final stage.
Kabita Rani Das, a member of the local union parishad, told The Daily Star that around 2,000 families of fishermen live in Char Sonarampur village. They would be homeless if the APSCL continued the river grabbing, said Kabita, also a resident of the village.
According to locals, the place used to be under water always. Large boats loaded with paddy used to be anchored there. However, the place has now dried up.
Contacted, Firoza Parveen, assistant commissioner (Land) of Ashuganj upazila, yesterday said, "We already visited the spot and will submit a report soon."
Ranjan Kumar Das, executive engineer (acting) of Water Development Board in Brahmanbaria, said their officials visited the place.
"After checking the river map, we informed our higher authorities that will take steps in this regard," he said, adding that filling up of the river bank is illegal.
The APSCL did not take permission from the Water Development Board, BIWTA or the Department of Environment.
Contacted, Md Shahidullah, deputy director of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority in Ashuganj and Bhairab river ports, said the company built a jetty there without informing them.
In reply to a query, Engineer AMM Sazzadur Rahman, managing director of APSCL, said, "We have acquired the land as per the government rules."
The allegation of grabbing the river land is not true, he added.
Arabinda Biswas, Ashuganj upazila nirbahi officer, said the company has total 41 acres of land acquired in 1964-65.
"But here we can see they have filled up a vast portion of the river behind the rest house of the APSCL. They have already filled up seven to eight acres of land," he added.
Md Nurul Amin, deputy director of Department of Environment in Brahmanbaria, said the APSCL authorities did not take any permission from them about filling up of the river.
"We sought clarification from them and they gave us a clarification that is not satisfactory. We have informed the Chattogram office of DoE," he said.