Grabbing easy, freeing tough
The Buriganga Second Bridge in Postogola overlooks a significant part of the river. Anybody standing on the bridge would have a clear view of the river and easily realise how shamelessly and ruthlessly encroachers have squeezed the lifeline of the capital.
Encroachment on the Buriganga over the years was so severe that the Shyampur side of the bridge has become just like a bottleneck.
A river view project of Bashundhara has filled up a part of the river and its shore on the Keraniganj side. On the other side beside the Navy jetty, a five-storey building is standing in a place, which was part of the Buriganga just five years ago.
A lush green lawn and a well-planned pond increase the beauty of the building, which in fact choked the river here.
It all happened in the past and no-one cared. But even now an encroacher is demarcating the river erecting bamboo poles in the waters without any intervention by the government agencies.
Local people say someone from Hazaribagh is developing his housing estate called 'Hudu' housing encroaching on the river. The owner of the housing company was not available for comments.
Encroachment on the Buriganga by different vested quarters was so extensive that they even built markets and other structures after filling up the river.
The government took some initiatives to remove the illegal structures, but the moves never yielded any tangible result.
"It's hard for us to take action against many encroachers as we don't have magistracy power and the grabbers manage the law enforcers," says a BIWTA official asking not to be identified.
Not only the Buriganga, industrialists and local influential people are encroaching on the Shitalakhya river indiscriminately as the administration is apparently doing nothing at all.
Just under the Kanchpur Bridge, sand traders and stone crushing companies are doing business occupying the river banks, while industries have encroached on the other side.
Reports received from Narayanganj say a ship building engineering company has grabbed around 500-foot land towards the river on the west bank of the Dhaleshwari, just beside Mukterpur Bridge, to make its dockyard.
In Gopchar, Haji Jainal, popularly known as Jainal 'Kosai' (butcher), has demarcated around 2,000 square feet on the riverbed and is making preparation to fill up the land.
There are allegations that the deputy commissioner's office in Narayanganj permits people to raise makeshift and other structures in the river violating BIWTA recommendations.
Back at the Buriganga bridge, vast encroachment was visible just beside the BIWTA jetty in Shyampur which once used to be called the jetty of Army Welfare Trust.
"But that land is in our control now," claimed Syed Munwar Hossain, secretary of BIWTA.
Beside that jetty, Syed Golam Hossain, a local sand and brick trader, has encroached on a vast portion of the river.
"We cannot recover that land as the Supreme Court has given a status quo in this regard," says a BIWTA official.
The BIWTA authorities are now dredging the Balu river in an attempt to make only a 100-foot channel navigable as the river has been narrowed down by encroachers.
The river here was around 200 metres wide and the main communication channel between the northern and northeastern parts of the country.
The government formed a taskforce on rivers which recommended in 2006 that at least 100 metres of the Balu's width be restored. The authorities, however, are working to restore only one-third of the recommended width.
Rally for rivers
One does not have to be an expert to identify river encroachments. It's just too obvious. But it's all the more difficult to prove as all the river-gobblers have ownership papers, thanks to our corrupt land administration and lax monitoring by river regulatory body. Powerful, rich and ruthless, these river-gobblers find no difficulty in maneuvering legal system and managing law enforcement. They have become seemingly invincible.
But should we let them get away with it? Lend your hands and together we can win a war.
The Daily Star