We are dismayed that yet another story of encroachment of a river bank has come in the news. This time, it is Meghna River. According to a report published in this newspaper yesterday, state-owned Ashuganj Power Station Company Limited (APSCL) has been found illegally filling up the bank of the Meghna in order to build their new unit near the Sohagpur village. Sand from the riverbed is being used to fill up the bank.
A local complainant brought the issue to the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) and the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA). It was alleged that not only will the filling-up of the bank disrupt the flow of the river, but it might also "cause the power transmission tower of the national power grid in Char Sonarampur and the Ashuganj river port to go into the river". We hardly need to elaborate how disastrous that would be.
This is not the first time that the APSCL has attempted to grab local land. Before this, the company's authorities tried to acquire some 300 acres of agricultural land in the Sohagpur and Bahadurpur mouzas along the river and adjacent to the residential complex of the company's officials. Their efforts were halted due to the villagers' resistance, and the company then turned to filling up the Meghna river bank instead.
The filling-up process is said to be in its final stage, with about 8 acres of the bank already filled up. And all this occured without the APSCL ever seeking the permission of any of the concerned authorities, namely the Department of Environment (DoE), the BIWTA, or the Water Development Board. All three authorities have confirmed that the APSCL did not seek their permission, making the state-owned company's activities illegal.
It is reprehensible that the APSCL would engage in such illegal activities with such blatant audacity, knowing that it is a criminal offence. Why did the concerned authorities not stop it when the offence was happening? One cannot help but wonder how strong of a legal immunity companies such as this must enjoy for them to be able to set up a jetty and carry on with such an illegal act on the bank of one of the most prominent rivers of the country—that too when most rivers are already suffering from similar incidents, on top of being the dumping grounds for the country's waste.
While we are a bit relieved to know that the concerned authorities are looking into the matter, we also believe that it should not have taken a local's complaint for them to finally take notice of such a wrongdoing being carried out.