Unabated encroachment has turned the Haor river, near Benapole land port, into a stagnant waterbody that now resembles a narrow canal.
The vital river is now in a chokehold as influential locals built numerous structures -- including large buildings and fish enclosures -- on both sides of it.
The encroachers with the connivance of unscrupulous land officials made false deeds to claim ownership of the river’s land, alleged locals.
They also said their longstanding demand of conducting drives to reclaim the river by rooting out the illegal occupiers fell on deaf ears.
During a visit to the area recently, this correspondent found several multi-storeyed buildings constructed on the banks of the Haor river. A number of fish enclosures were also found, occupying the river.
Thanks to the encroachment, the once-flowing Haor river is now nothing but a shallow waterbody, the locals said.
Connected to various other rivers including the Ganges and Farakka in India and Kapotakhkho, Rupsha, Betna and Kudla rivers in Bangladesh, the Haor used to be a crucial part of the local economy as it was the primary means of communications as well as source of fish and irrigation water for thousands.
Master Shahidullah, president of Benapole Nagorik Committee, said the government had launched drives to remove the illegal structures from the Haor, but the drives later stopped for reasons unknown to them.
The minister for shipping and the local lawmaker visited the area on various occasions, but the authorities are yet to take necessary steps to reclaim the river’s land, alleged the locals.
Contacted, Pulak Kumar Mondal, upazila nirbahi officer of Sharsha upazila, said they already made a list of the encroachers and illegal structures built in the river.
“We will take legal action against them soon,” he added.