Environmentalists seek PM’s hand in protection of Bankkhali River

Published : 07 Feb 2023 09:31 PM

Bangladesh Environment Movement (BAPA) has issued the usual memorandum to protect the Bankkhali River of Cox's Bazar, which has lost its heritage due to encroachment, pollution and filling. They have sought the Prime Minister's intervention to protect this river.

On Monday afternoon, Bangladesh Environment Movement (Bapa) Cox's Bazar district branch leaders presented a memorandum to the Prime Minister through District River Protection Committee President and Cox's Bazar District Commissioner Muhammad Shaheen Imran.

General Secretary Kalim Ullah, Organizing Secretary HM Nazrul Islam were present during the signing of the memorandum under the leadership of Bapa Cox's Bazar Branch President Fazlul Quader Chowdhury.

Vice President Journalist Faridul Alam Shaheen, Advocate Zafar Alam Didar, Nezam Uddin, Ismail Sajjad, Sadar Upazila President Enamul Haque Chowdhury, Organizing Secretary Jahangir Sams, City Branch Organizing Secretary Usain, District Member Mohammad Hossain, Mohammad Farid, Sadar Upazila Bapa Leader Journalist Nurul Hossain, Enamul Haque.  According to the memorandum, Bankkhali is one of the main rivers of Cox's Bazar, a tourist city located in the southern part of the country. This river originates from the mountainous region of Bandarban and flows over the Upazilas of Naikshyongchari, Baishari, Ramu and Cox's Bazar Sadar and joins the Bay of Bengal. Bankkhali river was the main travel route from Cox's Bazar to Teknaf, Maheshkhali and Qutubdia until the 1980s. In a span of just a few years, the river is now becoming a threatened and dead river due to encroachment, pollution and deforestation along the river. A Public Interest Litigation was filed in the High Court Division in 2014 to clear the river of illegal encroachment and pollution and restore it to its former state.

After the preliminary hearing of the case, on September 16, 2014, the Hon'ble Court ordered the eviction of all existing occupants and structures in Bankkhali River and closure of the source of pollution. At the same time, the court directed the authorities concerned to refrain from granting leases of Bankkhali river and riverbanks for other purposes. 

Later, on January 6, 2015, the court ordered the Cox's Bazar municipality to refrain from dumping waste in the Bankkhali river.

Despite the court's order, Cox's Bazar Municipality is continuously dumping waste in Bankkhali river and filling the river with waste. Moreover, for the past 1 year, some influential people and their proxies have occupied the banks of the river by cutting the paraforests created naturally and through forestry under the "Coastal and Wetland Biodiversity Project" of the Department of Environment and plotting there. Tidal water is still rising in the encroached plots and dead paraforest trees that have been felled are clearly visible. Despite the clear direction of the court to protect the river banks and paraforests adjacent to the banks, no effective action has been taken against these encroachers so far.

The demands put forward by the Prime Minister through the Deputy Commissioner are that Cox's Bazar Municipality should stop dumping waste in the Bankkhali River by complying with the court's order; Encroachment and decontamination of rivers, riverbanks and adjacent paraforests, and all encroachments on riverside paraforests and restoration of paraforests. People's property should be secured from the hands of the occupiers. Punitive action should be taken against all encroachers besides bringing back the damaged paraforests. Cox's Bazar Municipality should be forced to dump the waste at the already selected alternative place for dumping the waste.

Environmentalists have sought the Prime Minister's immediate intervention to protect the traditional Bakkhali River of Cox's Bazar.