A review on the amended ‘Bangladesh National River Conservation Commission Act 2013’
By Zeba Tarannum
The government has decided to tighten an old law by amending to protect the rivers, haors, reservoirs, etc. in Bangladesh.
The draft National River Conservation Commission Act 2020 has been formulated to amend the National River Conservation Commission Act 2013. Authorities have called on all concerned to comment on the law.
What is in this amended law?
How are plans being made to protect the rivers and reservoirs of Bangladesh at present?
This National River Protection Commission Act 2020 will cover all the rivers, reservoirs, canals, seashores, haors, baors, wetlands, reservoirs, fountains, lakes, and all water sources of Bangladesh and will bring under the Commission.
Measures that will take to protect the rivers and reservoirs
Plans will make to protect all types of rivers, reservoirs, water sources in Bangladesh, the removal of illegal occupants, stop construction of illegal structures on river banks, excavation of extinct or dying rivers.
The special status of the river and public trust property
All rivers flowing through Bangladesh will consider as legal individuals and living entities. All rivers will have the same status. As all the rivers are under public trust doctrine, they will consider as public property.
To make any plan related to the river, all the agencies, including Planning Commission, LGED, Water Development Board (BWDB), BIWTA, BADC have to consult with the Commission and will have to take No-Objection Letter (NOC).
The amended law states that, whatever the other law says, but the activities that obstruct the normal flow of the river, such as possession of the river, construction of infrastructure, fish farming will be considered a criminal offence.
If any government official illegally allocates river places, shores, etc. to someone’s name, they will also convict of criminal breach of trust.
River Protection Court in the divisional city
Each division will have one or more courts called ‘River Protection Courts’. All matters related to rivers and reservoirs will judge in this court.
Besides, a mobile court will also conduct if required. The mobile court will be able to give immediate punishment in case of river occupation, pollution, etc.
Other than the Commission, any aggrieved person or citizen can file a case in the court against eviction, recovery and prevention of pollution to protect the river.
Power of arrest without warrant
An officer or representative of the Commission or the naval police may arrest a person or head of an institution without an arrest warrant on suspicion of being involved in a river-related offence punishable by one month or more.
The provision of punishment
Violation of the law by any person or organization is punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding Taka one million or both. Also, there is a provision of punishment under the sections of various criminal laws.
The offence of illegal occupation of river land is punishable by one-year simple imprisonment and a fine of one lakh taka or both.
Suppose a lease or sub-lease grant violating floodplain law of the river. In that case, if given in the name of river survey to a person or institution, attempt to convert the submerged char into a char, direct or indirect damage to the water flow, etc., He/She will punish five years rigorous imprisonment and will fine a million of taka.
The same punishment will give if the land of the river is occupied by using religious misinterpretations or feelings and damaged by building bridges or culverts.
Despite such a beautiful view captured by a high-resolution camera from a high rise building on the bank of the Shitalakshya, residents say the stench has made their lives difficult.
Declaration of Environmentally Critical Area
No matter what the other law says, the Commission will be able to declare the area as an Environmentally Critical Area by considering the illegal occupation of rivers, pollution, loss of navigability, water, environment and ecology, disturbed or endangered biodiversity.
Law enforcement is paramount along with making law.
Rizwana Hasan, Chief Executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), told BBC Bangla, “It is important to have good laws to ensure the rule of law in everything. However, the overall law enforcement in our country is very bad. But one of the advantages of having good laws is, if someone is trying to enforce the law and if really wants to enforce. Then he will be able to enforce it well. ”
She also said, among the Bangladesh Environmental Conservation Act 1995, till to date only 15% are being implemented and 85% are not implementing. However, now that the law is in place, the river conservation commission can support initiatives to stop illegal evictions of rivers, cutting of hills can be taken, and full enforcement of the law can demand. So, it is vital to have fair laws.