Environmental activists yesterday demanded that the government immediately bring river grabbers, who have been identified lately, under trial and ensure exemplary punishment for them.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital, they said if the grabbers are not brought to book soon, they will keep grabbing river lands and harm Bangladesh’s lifeline deliberately.
The event was held at Jatiya Press Club, marking World Rivers Day 2019, to be observed on September 22. The National Committee to Observe Rivers Day -- a coalition of environmental organisations -- arranged the programme.
National River Conservation Commission (NRCC), in a report this year, unveiled identities of more than 40,000 river grabbers from different parts of the country, said Mihir Biswas, coordinator of Save the Buriganga Movement.
Besides, several eviction drives were held against river encroachment in the last several months, he added.
“The job cannot be done just by conducting drives. The grabbers must be punished, and the land should be freed permanently. We want to see rivers flowing freely,” said Mihir, also a joint secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa).
Sharif Jamil, executive director of Waterkeepers Bangladesh -- an alliance working on protection of water bodies -- said the rivers have been ruining under political patron and support from a quarter of the administration.
The recent initiatives brought some hope but those remained ineffective, because river borders have not been identified properly and culprits are yet to be punished, added Sharif, another joint secretary of Bapa.
Abdul Matin, convenor of the national committee and vice-chairman of Waterkeepers Bangladesh, said rivers are the driving force of Bangladesh’s heritage, culture, economy, trade as well as development.
“If they are ruined, we will also move towards the verge of destruction,” he said.
Matin, also the general secretary of Bapa, said considering the current situation, observance of World Rivers Day has become a must for all, as it will help spread the message of the necessity of river protection.
As part of the Rivers Day observance, the committee will organise a parade titled “March for Rivers” from Bahadur Shah Park to Sadarghat on September 21, with a view to growing awareness against river pollution and grabbing.
Civil society representatives, activists of 70 environmental organisations as well as people from different walks of life will take part in the march, which will begin at 9:30am from Bahadur Shah Park.