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20th-May-2019

Protect the rivers from grabbers

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THE National River Conservation Commission has warned a dozen of government officials for their inaction to free the River Meghna from grabbers and take action within seven days. The Commission had earlier directed the authorities to take action against the grabbers but nothing had happened. Frustrated, the Commission on May 13 issued these latest warning. We do welcome the little heard Commission's roar against the government officials to protect the rivers of the country. The internal dynamics and ombudsman-like acts would certainly bring some positive change in the governance and protect rivers.
Earlier on February 3, a High Court Bench in a landmark judgment declared that a river is a "person" and gave the Commission the legal guardianship of all rivers in the country. The court directed the government to amend the National River Conservation Commission Act, 2013, incorporating stringent punitive provisions to make the Commission effective as it could take steps in protecting rivers and water bodies. The Commission is mandated to prevent illegal grabbing and pollution of rivers, building of illegal structures on rivers, and ensure their natural flow and navigability, conservation, and multi-purpose uses for economic and social development. But the law does not empower the Commission to punish the authorities except some pointless recommendations.  
The Commission's recent inspection identified that Ananda Shipyard and Khan Brothers Shipways and about a dozen other business conglomerates have grabbed the Meghna in Sonargaon and the upstream of Meghna Bridge. It identified Meghna Dockyard for filling up the river downstream of the bridge and a private economic zone for occupying about 50 acres. Taking advantage of authorities' inaction over past three months, the grabbers had an unhindered pace in gobbling up the river. Some well-known business conglomerates are claiming the land of the river by not putting up any signboard. The BIWTA said they could not carry out eviction drives due to the unavailability of excavators. It's regrettable and a demonstration of negligence of its duty that has encouraged the grabbers.
For not enforcing river-protection laws, big rivers like the Meghna, Shitalakkhya, Turag, and the Balu are now under the control of grabbers who are mainly powerful businesses and conglomerates.