Re-excavation work of a seven-kilometre-long canal remains suspended after the vice president of Charbhadrasan upazila unit of Awami League raised objection to the work in Ramnagar area of Sadarpur upazila.
On January 29, when the AL leader, Abul Kalam Azad Khan, who is also the chairman of Harirampur Union Parishad, and his men stopped the work, 1.5 kilometres of the canal -- connecting the Padma and Arial Khan rivers -- was already excavated.
As part of the Delta Plan adopted by the prime minister, contractor firm Noor Enterprise commenced the Tk 4.31-crore excavation work on December 25, 2019, said Water Development Board (WDB) officials in Faridpur.
Nasir Mollah, an excavator operator of the contractor, said, “In January, Abul Kalam Azad Khan and his supporters came to us and ordered us to stop the work. They also threatened to beat us up unless we stopped digging.”
Firm owner Iqbal Hossain said they had rented five excavators for the work, but with all those now sitting idle, they have been counting Tk 3.5 lakh in rentals every day.
Worried about the timely delivery of the project, Iqbal also said the excavation work has to be done during the dry season and unless the work is completed within the next two months, before the upcoming monsoon, the work completed so far will be in ruins.
Rebutting the accusation raised against him, Abul Kalam Azad Khan claimed that “the High Court has ordered to stop the work.”
The canal that used to run through the area no longer exists and at least 77 acres of the land, where the excavation work was being carried out, belongs to different people, he further claimed.
“We don’t have any objection to the excavation work of the canal, even though it will not help the farmers and locals. But we want compensation for the land that we own,” the AL leader said.
Sultan Mahmud, WDB executive engineer in Faridpur, said Abul Kalam Azad Khan along with 20 others had filed a writ petition.
The secretaries to the land and water resources ministries, WDB executive engineer in Faridpur, the deputy commissioner and additional deputy commissioner (revenue) of Faridpur were made respondents in the petition.
On January 29, the bench of Justice FRM Nazmul Ahsan and Justice KM Kamrul Quader asked the land and water resources ministries to resolve the matter without involving the court any further, Sultan said, adding that although the court did not order to withhold the excavation work, Abul Kalam Azad stopped the work the same day unilaterally, without holding any discussion with any party concerned.
Moslem Uddin Khan, a former member of Harirampur Union Parishad, said, the excavation work of the canal, vital canal for locals and farmers, started after a long delay.
But some people with vested interests have stopped the work, he added.
Farmer Shamsul Bapari from Harirampur said the farmers of the community will reap tremendous benefits once the canal is re-excavated. “The farmers will also be able to transport their goods through the canal at a nominal cost.”
Mohammad Aslam Mollah, the additional deputy commissioner (revenue) in Faridpur, said if necessary, one may complain to the authorities concerned. But “no one can stop government work”.
The High Court did not suspend the canal excavation work, he said, adding that they were investigating as to why the excavation work was stopped.