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10th-Nov-2019

River grabbing causing both ecological and economic harm

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WHAT was once considered encroachment of rivers has become outright plunder of our riverine resources. But the seriousness of the crime has done little to deter a carnival of corruption plaguing river management. Despite an intervention by the High Court, the scenario has hardly changed.
In response to a public interest litigation over the slow death of the river Turag due to massive earth filling, an HC Bench in early February this year ruled the waterbody be given the status of a living entity, making it a "legal entity". It was part of a 17-point directive by the court, which chalked out clear guidelines for saving the country's rivers and wetlands from grabbing and pollution. The directives paved the way for treating grabbing and polluting rivers as criminal offences and amending laws to empower the National River Conservation Commission as the legal guardian of all rivers. It also asked that all river grabbers be declared ineligible to contest elections and get bank loans.
But the narrow interests of the local administrative elite have wreaked havoc on our economy. The HC directed the government to dredge the river sources to get water from the Jamuna into the Dhaleswari, from Dhaleswari to Buriganga, and from the Old Brahmaputra to the Bangshi River and bring back navigability in the four rivers.  But the four rivers have been left in a deplorable state while  the government has undertaken multiple million-dollar water projects using foreign loans to fetch water for the capital from far away Meghna and Jamuna Rivers that too have got mired in alleged corruption and snail-like progress.
So just one instance of corruption has left us with a multi-million dollar bill--if the HC directives had been followed accordingly we would have got navigability of the four rivers and got drinking water. Now if we multiply the economic loss to the nation due to all the lost directives we will end up with a bill in the billions -- money spent needlessly due to the corrupt activities of a few members of the local administrative and political big shots who seek only to use their public offices for personal gains. The ultimate sufferer is the entire nation because of the ecological and economic harm which it is doing to us.