Why are the custodians of rivers inactive?
We are shocked to learn from a Daily Star report that a part of the Meghna River in Munshiganj is being filled up to set up a petroleum company. While visiting the river recently, our correspondent found about half a dozen dredgers dumping sand into the river in broad daylight to reclaim land from river foreshores and floodplains. Reportedly, the encroachment has been going on with the assistance of the Munshiganj district administration and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).
In 2009, the HC gave detailed directives to the government agencies concerned to save the country’s rivers. And in July this year, the HC said that the state must act as the people’s trustee to save our rivers, hills, sea beaches, forests, canals, beels and wetlands. Apparently, all the directives of the HC have been ignored by the custodians of the rivers—BIWTA, the upazila administration, police, district administration, water development board and DoE—when it came to stopping the grabbing of Meghna.
Although the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) has made a list of 13 companies, including power plants, cement factories, ship builders, etc., who have been grabbing the Meghna in October this year and asked the BITWA to evict them, no substantial steps have been taken by them. Moreover, the BIWTA has not been following the Port Act and Port Rules which requires a BIWTA river port officer to be responsible for keeping a navigable channel and river foreshore free of obstructions and workable for port activities.
Under the circumstances, the government should take immediate steps to stop the onslaught on Meghna by influential grabbers. It should hold the BIWTA as well as other government agencies concerned accountable for not following the HC directives and the basic rules to save our rivers.