A good initiative stumbles at start | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 01, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:32 AM, December 01, 2020

A good initiative stumbles at start

No progress yet from committee to limit sand extraction to save rivers from erosion

In a bid to save the country's rivers from erosion, the government has taken an initiative of limiting the amount of sand extraction. However, the initiative seems to have stumbled at the very beginning.

To make the effort smoother, a committee chaired by Land Secretary Md Muksodur Rahman Patwary was formed this year.

"Several ministries and government departments are involved with rivers. The aim of the committee was to gather knowledge from all these ministries and departments to address indiscriminate sand extraction," Muksodur told The Daily Star yesterday.

However, no meeting has been held yet in this regard.

When asked, the land secretary said some ministries failed to finalise representatives while some did send names.

Replying to a question, he said many ministries are linked with the issue of sand extraction. "Their suggestions are needed to formulate rules effectively. We want to work in a coordinated way," he said.

The land secretary, however, could not say when the committee was formed. "We are trying to come up with a solution in this regard," he added.

According to experts, dredging on waterways is required to ensure navigability while sand collection is also necessary for infrastructural development. However, unplanned sand extraction has been posing threat to biodiversity and causing river erosion in different parts of the country, they said.

Specific instruction and mapping should be in place to determine from which part of the river sand can be extracted from, experts recommended.

Meanwhile, the issue of sand extraction came to the fore yesterday at the cabinet meeting at secretariat during a discussion over the Delta Plan.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who joined the meeting virtually from Gono Bhaban, gave special directives to control indiscriminate sand extraction in order to save river erosion.

Later at a briefing, Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said they held several inter-ministerial meetings in last three or four months on the matter and gave precise directives for Balu Mahal (sand extraction zone).

"We then formed a committee led by the land secretary and gave them a guideline too," he added. "One of the prime reasons for river erosion is indiscriminate sand extraction."

The committee will prepare rules by January next year. The Water Development Board and BIWTA with the help of respective deputy commissioners will survey Balu Mahals and fix the quantity of sand, he said.

He said they will use "multibeam technology" to find out the precise quantity of sand. After that, the DCs will disclose it in their respective websites with maps. There will also be a list of contractors who will be involved in sand extraction.

"Contractors will be able to extract sand on a limited scale. None other than the specific contractor will be able to extract sand. I hope it will then come under a system and indiscriminate sand extraction will stop," he said.

Asked about local musclemen, who used to control Balu Mahal, he said they will not be able to do so anymore. "There will be tender advertisement in newspapers and websites detailing the amount of sand in a Balu Mahal," said Anwarul.

At the meeting, the cabinet also gave some directives to modify the Delta Plan.

The cabinet also approved draft "National Emergency Service 999 Policy -- 2020". According to the draft, a separate unit will look after the 999 service to make it more effective, said the cabinet secretary.

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