As per the front-page lead news in this paper on February 9, a shipbuilding company has put up a makeshift enclosure on the Meghna River on its west bank at Char Betagi in Gazaria Upazila, without bothering to obtain either environmental clearance or necessary permission from the authorities. The company in question has been pumping water from the enclosed area, and was in the process of building slipways for the dockyard. The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) did nothing to stop this activity, despite the fact that the company did not have necessary government clearance.
Such audacity comes from the fact that companies that carry out these illegal activities get a lot of protection from a section of unscrupulous officials and local political heavyweights. This has allowed other rivers like the Turag to be encroached upon over the years to a point that those can no longer be classified as rivers. We have the same scenario all over the country. The High Court has recently issued a directive to the government to make effective the National River Protection Commission (NRPC) Act 2013, with provisions that will allow the body to punish and fine encroachers.
The HC ruling states that the government must report to the Court precisely what actions it has taken in this regard within a period of six months. This is a landmark decision and must be hailed as such. Without having a single body like the NRPC legally armed and staffed to carry out continuous drives against river grabbers, the future of rivers like the Meghna, Shitalakkhya or Dhaleshwari cannot be safeguarded. We hope the authorities will take effective measures to make NRPC an effective body to safeguard our rivers from greedy business interest groups.