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3:56 am | July 13, 2024
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Is the Bangladesh River Protection Commission able to protect its river?

Is the Bangladesh River Protection Commission able to protect its river?

If there is no democracy in the country, the river occupiers feel very safe. Apart from that, the government has set up one institution after another, including the River Protection Commission, Water Development Board, River Research Institute, Joint River Commission, and Ministry of Water Resources. Still, the government is not able to save the country’s rivers.

Prominent people active in protecting the country’s rivers said these things in a recent discussion at the National Press Club of Dhaka.

‘Humanity Foundation, Angor, Safer Development Foundation, and Initiative for Peace organized this discussion titled ‘Citizen calls to prevent 50-year river robbing of 26 km of Shutki river under occupation’.

Professor Anu Muhammad said, “The river occupiers feel very safe if there are no democratic rights in the country. If there is a dictatorship in the country, there is arbitrariness, the less the democratic rights of the people, the more advantage the river occupiers and river killers have.”

Anu Muhammad questioned the role of the state in protecting the river. He said that the state is needed to free the river from encroachment. When going to protect the river, the state is not found.

But if you go to the movement to protect the river, then the state comes. Then the police force of the state came, and the Robbery force came.

In many places, those who are agitating on the river face various threats. He was implicated in various cases. At one time, the protestors about the river were also threatened with gunfights.

Anu Muhammad feels that other rivers like the Shutki River will continue to be encroached if the current pattern of development continues.

Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) believes that the government does not want to save the river.

Addressing the government, she said, ‘The country that does not want to save the river, one example of Shutki river will be created in that country.”

“The country is creating one institution after another, even has made a river protection commission. Still, the rivers cannot be saved. The country doesn’t want to save.”

Syeda Rizwana Hasan said, “Shutki River is illegal even if it is leased by the District Commissioner. Because the District Commissioner does not have jurisdiction to lease the river. He said that the picture of overall river administration in the country is very murky.”

“They will sit back and watch the rivers being taken over. Then took a multi-crore project to evict the river squatters,” she added. He also thinks that the process of eviction of river squatters needs to be changed.

Former Chairman of River Protection Commission Mujibur Rahman Hawladar mentioned that the river is the state’s wealth, and no individual has the right to do so. Pointing out that there is no law against river interests in the country, he said, the law is not being implemented.

A case should also be filed against those who are sitting on the chair or are in charge of protecting the river. Then accountability will be ensured. She also thinks that it is possible to save Shutki River if everyone acts together.

Shipa Hafiza, the former chief executive of the Center for Law and Arbitration, commented that the Shutki River has been occupied for 50 years as nothing but misfortune.

He alleged that the administration, Water Development Board, Ministry of Lands, and River Protection Commission were all involved in the capture of the river. Otherwise, the river could not have been occupied for so long.

 Questioning the activities of the River Protection Commission, Chairman of RDRC Mohammad Ejaz said, “This commission does not take any case to protect the river.”

Prof. Anisuzzaman, Vice-Chancellor of Global University, Suman Shams, Chairman of Nongar Bangladesh Trust, and others also spoke on the occasion. Humanity Foundation Chairman Muhammad Shafiqur Rahman presided over the event.

According to the document given on this occasion, the 26 km long river of Baniachang upazila of Habiganj has dried up. The river is connected upstream to Khoai and downstream to Jamuna. When the Zamindar system was abolished in 1950, the ownership of rivers and land rested with the state.

However, the Zamindars family of Baniachong formed the Yahya Fisheries Private Company in 1960 to take over the Shutki River.

But they failed to take it during the Pakistan period. In 1972, Dewan Yahya Raja filed a case on behalf of this company for possession of the Shutki River by showing the Tara Beel

In 1973, the court ruled in favor of the man. In another judgment in 1992, the government regained ownership of the river. Dewan Ahmed Raja now claims the ownership of this river through heredity.

In July last year, the district administration leased the river to this Zamindar family, showing it as a closed reservoir.

When people go fishing in this river, the so-called owner comes with a gun. Dams are made of cement blocks at different places in the river. Today’s citizen call is organized to demand the protection of this Shukti river.

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