Drives to free grabbed rivers, canals soon

The government is going to resume extensive drives to free the illegally grabbed rivers, canals and water bodies across the country. 

As part of the initiative, the Ministry of Water Resources has forwarded directives to all the district administrations and the Divisional Commissioners to prepare proper measures in this regard.

Concerned officials of the Ministry of Water Resources said the drives will be conducted with support from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), law-enforcement agencies and local administrations.

Kabir Bin Anwar, Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, said that as per the decision of the government, he had already forwarded instructions to all the 64 district administrations and divisional commissioners across the country through video conferencing on February 8.

The Senior Secretary mentioned that 23,802 illegal structures, built illegally by grabbing the lands of different rivers, canals and water bodies, had already been demolished earlier in different drives. Besides, during the drives, 1,027 acres of grabbed land had also been freed from the illegal occupiers.

“But, the drives could not be continued due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the situation has improved, we are going to resume the drives very soon,” he said.

The government had earlier launched the eviction process with a list of 45,095 illegal establishments across the country. This time, the Ministry of Water Resources will resume drives with a list of 21,293 establishments built illegally by grabbing lands of different rivers, canals and water bodies. Environment-friendly trees will be planted in the freed land.

According to a recent report published by the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) of Bangladesh, around 19,000 out of 24,000 kilometres of waterways of the country have phased out due to grabbing of rivers and filling up of the rivers and canals after the independence of the country. At present there are only around 5,000 kilometres of waterways in the country.

Due to the disappearance of the waterways, transportations through the waterways are being hampered while various water transports are facing severe crisis in their movements, the report says.

According to the NRCC report, the waterways of riverine Bangladesh are declining day by day as a section of unscrupulous people under the shelters of political, influential and powerful people is grabbing the lands of rivers and canals. They are building industries, buildings and installing various other business establishments in the rivers or on the banks of the rivers.

Meanwhile, official sources said, the government has decided to excavate 178 of the country’s rivers to make around 10,500 kilometres of the waterways, which remain either dried up or disappeared from the map, navigable by 2025.