Running ramshod across the river
Flouting rules, a private company is constructing a road on the Teesta river bed in Lalmonirhat's Kaliganj upazila, posing a risk of severe floods and river erosion upstream.
Although the illegal road construction on river land has been going on in full swing on the occupied river land, the administration is only now saying they will investigate the matter.
The company, Intraco Solar Power Limited, is setting up a plant to generate 30 megawatts of solar power on 110 acres of land at Kaliganj's Char Sholmari village. It aims to start operations by December this year or early next year, said company officials.
In order to connect the project area with the main road, the company is constructing a 1.7-kilometre-long and 4.5-metre-wide road, which include 18 culverts and two steel bridges, at an estimated cost of around Tk 4 crore, they said.
But the construction has evoked outrage among villagers as they fear the road may cause severe floods and river erosion upstream which, in turn, may potentially harm their homes and land.
"The flow of water will be disrupted if the road is constructed. As a result, severe floods and erosion may occur upstream," said Soleman Ali, a farmer in Sholmari Char.
If river erosion takes a severe turn, many families in the area will lose their homesteads, he added.
However, the project's adviser Ashikur Chowdhury claimed that they are constructing the road to facilitate movement of the villagers.
The 18 culverts and two steel bridges will be constructed on the road so that water flow is not obstructed, he said, also claiming that the construction works do not require permission from the Water Development Board (WDB) because they are not taking place "in the river".
Lalmonirhat WDB Executive Engineer Mizanur Rahman however dismissed this claim, saying the construction of any structures on the river or the river bed requires permission from WDB. The company does not have any permission in this matter, he stated.
Terming the construction "illegal", he also echoed the villagers' worries over severe floods and river erosion upstream if the road is constructed.
However, he said, the WDB does not have any jurisdiction to take legal action which falls under the purview of the local administration.
"We have visited the spot and already submitted a report to the deputy commissioner's office with recommendations to take action," he told the Daily Star earlier this month.
Contacted, the district's DC Abu Jafor said he had received the WDB report and subsequently, formed a five-member probe body to investigate the matter.
"But the investigation now remains halted due to the lockdown. We have verbally asked the company to stop the road construction works."
Further steps will be taken after investigation, the DC added.