Choked by 2 shipbreaking yards: Once 50ft wide Sonaichhari canal now a narrow stream
We've already visited the area and found that both shipyards grabbed the canal by filling it. In addition, both changed the leased land's shape without permission. We have already sent an inspection report to the high-ups, mentioning that both shipyards violated the environmental law and action should be taken against the grabbers Md Fardoush Anwar deputy director of DoE (Chattogram)
Not so long ago, Sonaichhari canal, which is linked directly to the Bay of Bengal, used to be a vibrant 50-feet wide water body.
However, over the last three years, the canal has not only lost its lustre, it has also fallen victim to mindless grabbing, especially by two ship-breaking yards at Sitakunda upazila of Chattogram.
This has also affected the canal's navigability, hampering the livelihoods of 300 fishers who depend on the water body.
Both the yards, Seiko Steel (Darus Salam Enterprise) and Jiri Subadar Steel Mills, have encroached the canal from two sides, right under the nose of Sitakunda Upazila Administration and Department of Environment (DoE).
Local fishers alleged that they're facing problems while moving with their boats as the canal turned narrow.
Seiko shipyard has filled the canal by dumping soil and Jiri Subadar has taken possession of the site by erecting various iron and cement pillars along the canal, collectively filling almost 35 feet from their respective sides.
According to a report by Survey of Bangladesh, the canal was flowing through the Bangladesh Survey (BS) lines 185, 187, 182 and 192. The land office of Sitakunda leased out a 10.47-acre land around the canal to both the shipyards. But they grabbed the natural canal, as it wasn't mentioned in the survey.
Visiting Sonaichhari area recently, this correspondent found the canal was around 15-feet wide.
Bijoy Das, a fisher of Sonaichhari Jelepara, said, "We're facing problems as our boats often get stuck along the boundaries put up by the grabbers."
On February 8, assistant commissioner (land) of Sitakunda upazila submitted a report to the DoE over the encroachment. This correspondent obtained a copy of the report.
The DoE officials said Jiri Subedar Steel and Seiko Steel have grabbed the canal without taking any permission.
"We've already visited the area and found that both shipyards grabbed the canal by filling it. In addition, both changed the leased land's shape without permission," said Md Fardoush Anwar, deputy director of DoE (Chattogram).
"We have already sent an inspection report to the high-ups, mentioning that both shipyards violated the environmental law and action should be taken against the grabbers," he said.
He further said notices have been served to both yards for a hearing.
Contacted, Naeem Ahmed, managing director of Jiri Subedar Shipyard, said they leased the land 20 years ago and didn't grab the canal.
Asked about changing shape of the leased land, he claimed, "Shape of the land hasn't changed, as we've built a wall to protect it."
Contacted, Nazim Uddin, managing director of Seiko Shipbreaking Yard, said, "The canal wasn't on the BS record, so we filled it. However, as per Sitakunda UNO's direction, we'll withdraw our boundary from the canal."
Sonaichhari canal was included in 1969 master-plan of Chattogram Development Authority (CDA). The canal is also in the Revisional Survey (RS), said Aliur Rahman, general secretary of Movement to Protect Rivers and Canals of Chattogram.
"We held a human chain to protect the canal, but the administration isn't taking any action against the occupiers," he said.
Md Shahadat Hossain, UNO of Sitakunda, said "The BS survey didn't mention the canal, so both shipyards filled it up. This is a natural water body, so this canal will be recovered from the occupier."