We are pleasantly surprised that a case has been filed against a number of individuals accused of land grabbing of the Dhaleshwari river in Dhalla Union of Singair upazila of Manikganj, in the name of setting up a power plant. The long list of the accused also includes a ruling party leader. We applaud the bravery of the assistant officer of the Dhalla Union Land Office for taking action because in most cases of land grabbing, the matter is ignored and silenced at an early stage—let along a case being filed.
However, the above example of action being taken is simply a drop in the ocean compared to the innumerable incidents of encroachment of rivers and land grabbing that regularly go unnoticed and unpunished. Furthermore, given that a lot of the times, it is the politically influential who encroach upon government land, drives to recover the occupied land become tough to implement. The combined effect of encroachment of rivers for various purposes (construction, development activities, etc) and uncontrolled dumping of waste has been disastrous—aquatic life is severely threatened and many rivers have already dried up.
Protection of our environment and natural resources is enshrined in Article 18(A) of the Constitution, and laws such as Bangladesh Water Act 2013 and National River Protection Commission Act 2013 have similar provisions. But our river ecosystem is on the verge of being obliterated in the absence of implementation of said laws.
Along with proper implementation of relevant laws, the government should seriously consider forming a body or regulatory authority dedicated to monitoring the encroachment of rivers so that swift action against the responsible persons can be taken. Forming such a body could also go a long way in devoting the issue of encroachment of rivers the required attention and as a hub of useful information.