Demarcation there, not the river
If you go to Telghat of south Keraniganj, you will see a road next to the Buriganga river. Beside it, there are some buildings, makeshift shops and a piece of land filled with garbage and earth.
You will also see a demarcation pillar somewhere in between all these that says "Kaliganj, Pillar-10, Buriganga river".
The distance between the Buriganga, considered to be the lifeline of Dhaka, and this pillar (used for ascertaining the river boundary) is around 100 feet.
As this correspondent was standing on the side of the road next to some makeshift shops and parked three-wheelers and rickshaws, looking at the boats docked along the bank, an elderly local came by and said, "You know the land you are standing on used to be Buriganga. You are actually standing on the river."
Md Lal Mia of Boiritole village continued, "This is a nice trick the encroachers apply. They continue to dump garbage and, in a way, encourage others to do so. This way they also fill up the river land."
When asked, the 60-year-old also said the demarcation pillar had been there for a long time. It was set up by the Bangladesh Inland Water Transportation Authority (BIWTA).
"I have been rowing boats in the river since I was a child. It was not like this before... the river is dying in front of my eyes," said Lal Mia, on a depressing note.
Abdus Salam, another resident of the area near Telghat, said, "If you go along the road leaving the river on your right side from Telghat to the Babubazar bridge, you will see garbage being dumped on the river in several parts. Once the river land gets filled up, many set up makeshift stalls there."
Locals alleged that people mostly dump garbage on the river at night.
Meanwhile, a water bus terminal was built at least 50 feet inside the river at Telghat. There was also a huge pile of earth dumped beside the terminal, suggesting that the river area was being filled up to build a pathway from the terminal to the bank.
Sher Shah Mia, a lessee of the terminal, said, "BIWTA excavated the river at Telghat point for setting up the water bus terminal and dumped the excavated soil in the river a year ago."
Mentionable, the river embankment road in South Keraniganj is just opposite the Sadarghat launch terminal in Old Dhaka.
The area falls under Suvadda union in Dhaka's Keraniganj upazila. It's a busy area, bustling with sellers and buyers of local garment products. There are also RMG factories in the area.
As one can easily assume, leftover products or scrap materials from those factories also find their way into the river due to the lack of a proper waste management system in the union.
Contacted, Suvadda UP Chairman Hazi Iqbal Hossain said they were trying to manage the waste properly but some unscrupulous people continue to dump garbage in the river.
Iqbal also blamed the BIWTA for dumping soil in the river while setting up the terminal.
"We will evict the makeshift structures built on the river land," he said.
Meanwhile, locals alleged that the river continues to suffer from mindless dumping of waste and encroachment as the authorities concerned turn a blind eye to this menace.
KM Kabirul Islam, deputy director of the National River Conservation Commission, told this correspondent yesterday that BIWTA cannot build any structure on the river that can make the river narrow.
"They should have shifted it to the river bank," he added.
He said BIWTA should be more responsible and refrain people from dumping waste in the river. "Also, they should initiate drives to remove garbage from the river immediately."
Alamgir Kabir, joint director of BIWTA (port and traffic, Sadargaht), said local RMG factories are dumping waste in the river. "We will take stern action against them. We will also work with the upazila parishad to solve the waste management issue."
About the issue of encroachment, Alamgir said the demarcation process of the river land is yet to be completed. "Since this area is turning into a business hub, we are in talks with businesspersons to finalise the process."
"We will start an eviction drive to demolish the illegal structures soon," he added.
About dumping soil or garbage in the river to fill up its land, he said he did not take office when it happened. "Probably, the terminal was built on an emergency basis and then they dumped the excavated earth in the river."
Contacted, Md Ziaul Haque, director (Dhaka region) of the Department of Environment, told this correspondent yesterday that they will take action against those who are dumping garbage in the Buriganga, in coordination with the local administration.