The Deputy Commissioners (DCs) of four districts, who were asked by the High Court (HC) on June 25 to take measures to protect the rivers under their jurisdiction, are now ‘doing some home work’ in this regard on the basis of newspaper reports as none of them received the court order officially until writing of this report yesterday afternoon.
The DCs of Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Munshiganj said they cannot start the process of demarcating the rivers until they get the HC order officially.
“I have nonetheless started doing some homework which includes finding the location of the rivers as recorded in the 1914 Cedestral Survey,” DC of Dhaka Zillar Rahman told The Daily Star.
With the rivers Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitalakhya, and Tongi Khal (canal) worst affected by years of encroachment and pollution, the DC of Dhaka has the most significant of job of reporting back to the HC timely.
The court ordered the four DCs to complete demarcation of the Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag and Balu rivers by November 30.
“We already have knowledge of encroachments on the rivers, and now we are forming some committees to work on the issue and report back to the High Court about the past and present conditions of the rivers,” said Zillar Rahman.
DC of Munshiganj Md Mosharraf Hossain said the river Dhaleshwari under his jurisdiction also has problems of encroachment.
“Although I am yet to get the high court order officially, I have started a survey to identify the problems relating to the Dhaleshwari,” he said when contacted.
“But I can tell you there is no similarity whatsoever between the survey reports of 1914 (relating to rivers) and present condition of the rivers.”
The DC went on, “We have to demarcate the rivers on the basis of records of the last 40 years. Otherwise, there will be massive complications to trace the rivers as per the 1914 survey.”
Narayanganj DC Md Shamsur Rahman was out of his office on a training programme. On his behalf, ADC (revenue) Amin Ullah Noori said as soon as they officially receive the HC order, they will start work. The Narayanganj DC has the task of demarcating most part of the Shitalakhya, which has been subjected to massive encroachments and pollution for years.
DC of Gazipur district Kamal Uddin Talukder said it would be unrealistic to go for the river protection programme on the basis of the 1914 survey report.
Parts of the rivers Turag, Bangshi and a host of contributory canals flow through Gazipur district on the immediate north of Dhaka, bringing in water for the Dhaka river system from the Jamuna in the upstream.
“The rivers have changed courses over the last 100 years, and on the old river beds, residential areas and tall buildings have sprouted. Speaking realistically, we should consider protecting the rivers as per records of the last 40 years,” Kamal said.
Apart from demarcating the rivers, the HC also ordered the government to declare the four rivers ecologically critical areas. And it asked the government not to transfer officials involved in the demarcation process until completion of the task.
The court ordered the authorities to install pillars along the demarcated river boundaries by May 30 next year.