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ACC helpless

City’s canals, wetlands grabbed by influential quarters

By Special Correspondent
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The Anti-Corruption Commission [ACC] seems helpless in conducting drive against the influential persons who have encroached city’s canals and wetlands to construct their projects, especially the housing, making the capital apparently waterlogged.
The ACC earlier had taken an initiative to collect detail information about the grabbers, but it failed due to severe obstacles from the politically influential persons. The anti-graft watchdog even did not get enough information as it had to depend on the officials of Dhaka district administration, Land Record and Survey Department and related ministries, sources said.

“At present, I don’t see any activity over such programme. I can’t tell the exact condition of the initiative,” ACC Deputy Director [Public Relations] Pranab Bhattachariya told The New Nation on Sunday.

Sources close to the ACC said that a three-member committee led by Deputy Director Saiful Islam was formed about three years ago to collect information in this regard. Later, another Deputy Director Md Zahangir Hossain was given charge as the chief of the committee to gear up the investigation. But this time also the committee failed to proceed.

Not only that, another high-powered six-member committee headed by a Joint Secretary of the Land Ministry was formed in 2010 to identify the grabbers who encroached canals and wetlands in the capital and its adjacent areas. The committee was also asked to identify the dishonest officials of the ministries concerned who leased and recorded the government khas land in the names of private owners.

The committee had indentified 212 officials of different ministries and departments allegedly involved in the land grabbing. But significantly, no action was taken in line with the committee’s findings.    

ACC Chairman, Iqbal Mahmood, however refrained from making any comment over the issue despite repeated attempts last night.

But requesting anonymity a senior ACC official told The New Nation, “Most of the canals in the capital are now grabbed by the influential quarters. These grabbers are directly or indirectly get patronization from the ruling party stalwarts. For that reason, it becomes hard to take tough action against the illegal grabbers.”

“In some areas, the government organizations, including RAJUK, WASA and BIWTA, took initiatives to get back the encroached canals by conducting drives. But all of their efforts went in vain as 60 percent to 80 percent of the canals were grabbed again just within a few months,” the official said.

According to a survey conducted by Dhaka South and Dhaka North City Corporations, out of total 44 canals in the city, 35 have fully dried and encroached by the influential quarters.

In another report prepared by Dhaka District Administration and Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority, only 13 canals now exist and these are also reducing in size day by day due to illegal grabbing. The canals are at Basabo, Begunbarai, Mohakhali, Kalyanpur [ka and kha], Abdullahpur, Ramchandrapur, Gulshan, Banani, Katasur, Ibrahimpur, Baunia, Diabari and Shahjadpur. But the land grabbers have encroached major portion of these canals in the meantime, officials said.

Meanwhile, the ACC has formed three special teams to take instant action after getting huge number of complaints about corruption.

“Immediate actions will be taken against some disposable issues. We have formed three special teams….We want to work against corruption jointly according to the demand of the people,” the ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmud told the media recently.

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