Target 13 low river bridges

River taskforce wants those to be knocked down, rebuilt rightly
A taskforce to save rivers yesterday identified 13 low bridges on rivers around the capital as obstacles to watercraft.

The taskforce would urge the Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) ministry, Roads and Highways Department and Bangladesh Railway, which constructed those bridges, to knock them down and rebuild them with proper clearance.

The bridges are on the rivers Buriganga, Turag, Shitalakkhya and Balu.

The taskforce was reconstituted last year with government officials and civil society members to suggest how to maintain navigability of rivers as well as keep them pollution and encroachment free.

The identified bridges are Mirpur-Gabtoli Bailey Bridge over the Turag, Ashulia Bridge (on Abdullahpur-EPZ Road), Dhaur Bridge-2 over Tongi Canal, Pratyasha (Nolnichala Bailey Bridge), Kamarpara Bridge, Tongi Road Bridge (West), Tongi Road Bridge (East), Tongi Rail Bridge-1 (East), Tongi Rail Bridge-2 (West), Trimukh-Rupganj Bridge on the Balu, Esapur Bailey Bridge, Kayetpara Bridge and Demra Bridge.

“The bridges should have 25 feet of clearance from the highest level of water flow,” said Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan, also the chair of the taskforce, in a briefing after its meeting yesterday.

“The Dhaur Bridge at Ashulia on the Turag is only three feet higher than the water level and it is obstructing all river transport,” he said.

In the future if a government organ wants to build a bridge, they would have to get clearance from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), the minister said.

“If they do not knock down the bridges and rebuild them accordingly, we will request the prime minister to step in,” he said.

The sixth taskforce meeting, since its reconstitution, was held at the auditorium of the shipping ministry yesterday. Law Minister Shafique Ahmed, Water Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen, Land Minister Rezaul Karim Hira, State Minister for Environment and Forest Hasan Mahmud, lawmakers Nasim Osman, Mostafa Zalal Mohiuddin, Aslam Khan, Begum Sanzida and officials concerned and environmentalists of the country attended the meeting.

In the briefing after the meeting, Shahjahan Khan said the taskforce decided to start by April 30 the work for demarcating riverbanks in four districts–Dhaka, Narayanganj, Munshiganj and Gazipur.

“We are yet to float the tender for concrete pillars required for the job,” he said. A massive eviction drive will be conducted during the time of riverbank demarcation, he said.

“As soon as we evict them, the encroachers return again,” he said. The taskforce subcommittee to conduct a 15-day-long awareness campaign among people about river pollution and encroachment would make a budget for their campaign, he added.

The meeting was told that a total of 1,11,265 square metres of waste was extracted from the Buriganga riverbed between January 6 and March 27.

The taskforce also formed another subcommittee for finding a way to stop river pollutions at the source. “Simply cleaning would not yield any results if we continue to pollute the river,” he said.

Asked when the BIWTA will stop filling up rivers to make commercial sheds and jetties, the minister said he was not aware that BIWTA itself fills up rivers. He said he would look into the matter.

daily star