No cheers for river steps

Taskforce meeting unhappy about river drive, demarcation outcome
The government could not finish the eviction drive and start riverbank demarcation in last one year despite the High Court’s directive and firm commitments by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Environmentalists allege the administration is even narrowing down the existing rivers in the name of demarcation.

At a meeting of the High-Powered Taskforce Committee on Rivers yesterday, the environmentalists alleged in most cases the district administration drew their lines to demarcate the rivers as per fake revised survey (RS) documents.

The survey work should be done properly as it determines the future of the rivers, they told the meeting.

The deputy commissioners of four districts — Dhaka, Narayanganj, Munshiganj and Gazipur — yesterday informed the meeting that construction work could not be started yet due to delay in fund release.

They said they had not even floated tenders to construct concrete pillars.

“The fund was allocated only to Munshiganj district. But later we found the money meant for Munshiganj was given to BIWTA. So we could not spend the money,” said the deputy commissioner of Munshiganj.

“If we get money right at the moment, we would not be able to spend it before this fiscal year ends,” said the DC of Munshiganj.

The taskforce on February 14 decided to start setting up boundary pillars along the four rivers by the end of April.

In the seventh meeting of the taskforce yesterday, the ministers and government officials discussed the issue of bureaucratic tangles in implementing any decisions.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed and State Minister for Law Qamrul Islam, State Minister for Environment and Forest Hasan Mahmud, State Minister for Land Mustafizar Rahman Fizar, Sanzida Khatun, MP and other lawmakers from Dhaka, officials of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority and Water and Sewerage Authority attended the meeting chaired by Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan.

“The situation is such, we cannot do anything faster even if we want to,” the shipping minister noted.

The meeting decided to start a massive awareness campaign among communities and form local committees to conduct a door-to-door campaign, paste posters, bring out processions, and run television programmes for not dumping waste in the Buriganga river.

State Minister for Laws Qamrul Islam said eviction drive was not conducted properly in his constituency Kamrangirchar area as some industries far away from the riverbank were knocked down, while some illegal structures by the river are still standing.

The meeting also urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to direct all police stations along the rivers to file and accept cases against the encroachers.

The meeting decided to launch campaigns by posting posters and bringing out processions to save the rivers.

Mahfuz Anam, editor of The Daily Star, said the government has to take integrated measures to implement the decisions taken so that one organ of the government does not hamper work of another’s.

He drew the attention of the authorities saying, “If the Wasa continues to pollute the rivers, there would be no use of cleaning it by the Ministry of Shipping.”