Speakers at a discussion yesterday underscored the need for raising mass awareness to save land and rivers from the grabbers, as well as to protect arable land -- especially those of small ethnic groups -- from unplanned urbanisation.
They were speaking at the consultation meeting titled “Land Grabbing: Current Social Movement for Resistance” organised by INCIDIN Bangladesh at its Mohammadpur office.
The programme was supported by South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE). AKM Mustaque Ali, executive director of INCIDIN Bangladesh spoke as key discussant. Mihir Biswas, founding member secretary of Buriganga Bachao Andolon and joint general secretary of Bangladesh Paribersh Andolon (Bapa); Rajkumar Shao, executive director of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum and Jatiya Adivasi Parishad; Lucky Akter, organising secretary of Bangladesh Krishok Samitee; and Shahnaj Sumi, deputy director of SAAPE, spoke at the discussion.
Mihir Biswas said there were 24,000 kilometres of rivers in 1972, which have now been reduced to below 5,000 kilometres. Besides, there is severe pollution of rivers due to negligence of various stakeholders, he said.
The Bapa joint general secretary also said effective research is needed to find the actual picture of the condition of rivers. “We must change our mindset. We need to find ways to protect rivers … we can adopt zone-based plans for developing rivers,” he said.
Rajkumar Shao said ethnic minorities do not grab land, rather create arable land for farming.
“Vested business groups are making these minorities landless by grabbing their lands,” he said, adding that if the government is sincere about the rights of minority communities, the trend of grabbing land could be checked.
Lucky Akter said rivers and canals around Dhaka are filled up illegally, and people in those areas are forced to sell or leave their land by a vested group of real estate developers.