BIWTA pillars to ‘legitimise’ grabbed land on Buriganga
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) is erecting boundary pillars along the foreshore of river Buriganga in Basila without recovering the much-talked about 13 acres of river land and eight acres of foreshore that had been grabbed by a late lawmaker.
Once BIWTA completes the work, it would legitimise the river grabbing by the company of recently-deceased Dhaka-14 MP Aslamul Hoque for a power plant.
As per a High Court (HC) directive on October 22, 2019, National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) jointly prepared a report along with seven other government agencies that recommended the land be recovered and restored to its original state, as nearly 14km of the river is dying due to earth filling to construct a power plant.
However, within six months of the report, BIWTA is demarcating the river boundary, leaving around 500 yards of space from the water.
"The pillars are being installed under a different project. We will set up the pillars by the river shoreline," said Guljer Hossain, joint director of BIWTA.
BIWTA is implementing the second phase of demarcation pillar installations along the Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitalakhya river banks, spending Tk 848.55 crore since 2019.
While visiting the area on Saturday, it was seen the contractors were setting the pillars along the water line, which were ideally supposed to be set up after recovering the grabbed land.
Moreover, power plant authorities have already fenced the area and planted coconut trees on the grabbed land.
Asked about the eviction drive on grabbed land in the private economic zone, the joint director said they had sent a letter to the shipping ministry, but were yet to get any feedback.
"Now we are setting up pillars. But if the government decides to recover the land, we will conduct drives," he said.
Contacted, NRCC chairman Ali Kabir said if BIWTA violated the rule, they will be solely responsible for this.
Dr Mujibur Rahman Hawlader, its former chairman, was in charge of preparing the report that was submitted to the HC.
"It was prepared with the joint recommendation of eight government agencies as the HC asked for the report on October 22, 2020 following a writ petition filed by the late lawmaker," he said.
NRCC led the report preparation along with representatives from Dhaka deputy commissioner, joint director of BIWTA, director general of Land Record and Survey Directorate, director general of Bangladesh Water Development Board, chairman of Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority, AC land (Keraniganj circle), AC land (Savar circle) and chairman of Rajuk.
It was prepared following a HC directive of using modern technology to measure river areas based on the CS record. BIWTA was also a part of the report, he said.
"So it was not a report of the river commission. The government should have conducted a drive and recovered the land before setting up pillars there," he added.
As per the NRCC report, late Aslamul Haque started filling up portion of Buriganga and its adjoining wetland in 2010. He filled up 54 acres of land there and constructed power plant and factories.
Out of that 54 acres, at least 12.78 acres were part of the Buriganga, according to the oldest land record available, known as the Cadastral Survey (CS) record map of 1940.
He also filled up eight acres of foreshore.
The rest of the 54 acres was wetland along the river and marked as flood-flow zone in the detailed area plan (DAP) of Dhaka city. It is also illegal to fill up wetland as per the Bangladesh Water Act-2013.
The late lawmaker filed a writ petition with the HC on September 2, 2020 after BIWTA on August 23 last year asked him to remove within seven days the structures built for his power plant and Arisha Private Economic Zone in the area.
On December 10 last year, the HC cleared the way for the government to recover the river land from the possession of three companies of Maisha group owned by the late lawmaker.
Earlier, The Daily Star obtained multiple satellite images taken in 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2019 which clearly showed that the land along the Basila bridge was part of the Buriganga.
Contacted, Sharif Jamil, general secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa), said the HC gave a special order and engaged NRCC to demarcate the river area in that particular location but they did not do so properly.
"Ignoring that demarcation, BIWTA continued to violate the court verdict and put up demarcation pillars to legalise occupation of a power plant there," he said.
"This is a nexus of corrupt people comprising of politicians, administration and business community. The only remedy to this is exemplary punishment," he added.