River survey begins in Narayanganj

Balu being demarcated first on court order
Tawfique Ali and Faisal Parag in Narayanganj
Narayanganj district administration yesterday launched a survey on the Balu river to demarcate a seven-kilometre stretch of its bank in line with a court directive to draw the actual limits of four rivers around Dhaka.

Dhaka Divisional Commissioner Dr Khondaker Showkat Hossain inaugurated the survey putting a boundary pillar on the riverbank in Pashchimgaon in Kayedpara under Rupganj upazila.

The High Court (HC) on June 25 issued a set of directives on the government to save the rivers Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag and Balu around the capital from encroachment and pollution.

The HC directives followed a public interest litigation by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh in the wake of a massive public awareness campaign by the mass media against raging grabbing and ruthless pollution, fashioned as Save Rivers, Save Dhaka addressed to the prime minster.

The Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela) became a party to the petition.

The court directed the deputy commissioners of Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Munshiganj to demarcate the exact areas of the said rivers as per the Cadastral Survey (CS) and Revisional Survey (RS) records by November 30.

Deputy Commissioner of Narayanganj Md Shamsur Rahaman said the Department of Land Survey and Records (DLRS) has so far provided them with 29 CS and RS maps out of the required 109.

A 74-kilometre stretch of both banks of the Shitalakhya (Dhaleswari to Ghorshal), eight-kilometre stretch of one bank of the Buriganga and a seven-kilometre stretch of the Balu fall under the jurisdiction of Narayanganj district administration.

“We have embarked on a pilot project with whatever records are available and with our own fund,” said Rahaman. “The survey of rest of the river areas flowing across Narayanganj depends on availability of records and fund.”

The district administration has prepared a budget proposal of Tk 1.1 crore for survey, eviction of illegal structures and earth removal from the river areas and sent it to the land ministry. They are yet to get the fund.

The administration has formed a 17-member technical committee headed by the ADC (revenue) and comprised of representatives from Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, police, the settlement office and Narayanganj municipality.

It will carry out demarcation and prepare a list of illegal structures and river occupancy.

The DCs concerned will apprise the court of the survey findings and go for next course of actions.

The technical committee has instituted four sub-committees for Rupganj, Narayanganj sadar, Narayanganj Bandar and Sonargaon upazilas headed by the assistant commissioner (land) of the upazila concerned.

The DLRS has deputed 19 technical staffs including six chainmen, six Badar Amin surveyors and Kanungo as auxiliary manpower to the district administration for the survey.

Hundreds of various industries, factories, residential houses and other establishments will now fall within the river areas and be identified for eviction, say high officials.

Bela Executive Director Sayeda Rizwana Hasan said the rivers across the country have been destroyed by greedy quarters on the one hand and barrage by India on the other hand.

The HC asked the authorities to set up boundary pillars by May 30, 2010 and remove all garbage and evict illegal structures from the rivers by November 30, 2010.

It also directed the forest and environment secretary to declare the four rivers “Ecologically Critical Areas”.

Besides, Dhaka City Corporation and the Public Works Department have been asked to construct walkways and plant trees along the riverbanks by May 31, 2011 and Water Development Board to take measures to dredge the Dhaka rivers.