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Illegal structures removed along riverbanks, highways in four districts

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Chittagong District Administration demolishes illegal structures along the bank of Karnaphuli River on Tuesday; February 5, 2019 Dhaka Tribune

In Habiganj, more than 300 illegal structures built near the highway have been destroyed

The district administrations of four districts – Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, and Habiganj – have begun a drive to remove all illegal structures along river banks and highways on Tuesday.

In Dhaka, for the fourth day, authorities pulled down illegal establishments along the Buriganga River to free its land from encroachment.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) began the drive at Ashrafabad in Kamrangir Char around 10am. 

Around 50 structures were demolished till 12pm on Tuesday.

“We will continue this drive every week from Tuesday to Thursday till February 19,” said Joint Director of BIWTA (port) AKM Arif Uddin.

Earlier, BIWTA demolished 444 structures in the last three days.

In Chittagong, the district administration pulled down 30 illegal structures along the banks of the Karnaphuli River on the second day of its eviction drive.

The eviction drive that started at 10am was carried out in the Majhirghat area under Sadarghat police station in the city.

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Assistant Commissioner (Land) of Patenga Circle, Tahmilur Rahman, said they did not face any obstruction from any quarter during the eviction drives. Some of the encroachers removed 40 structures on their own before the drive started.

"As per the schedule, the eviction drives will continue till Thursday. We will set up demarcation pillars and hang notices in the reclaimed land," said the assistant commissioner.

Khulna District Administration demolishes illegal structures in different areas of the city on Tuesday; February 05, 2019 | Dhaka Tribune

The much-awaited eviction drive began on the banks of the river on Monday. On the first day of the drive, about 50 illegal structures were removed from Sadarghat to the Barik Building area.

On August 16, 2016, the High Court directed authorities concerned to remove 2,112 establishments illegally built on the banks of the Karnaphuli River, in response to a writ petition. 

The writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh sought directives from High Court to save the river, citing media reports of rampant encroachment on its banks.

In the petition, a number of individuals, owners of business houses and slums, a container terminal and six government entities, were accused of erecting illegal structures in the Bakalia, Patenga, Madrabari, Ghosail Danga, Monoharkhali, and Firingi Bazar areas on the banks of the river.

In Khulna, illegal establishments along 22 canals and the Mayur River have been demolished.

Khulna City Corporation (KCC) jointly organized the operation from the metropolitan area starting 11am on Tuesday.

During the operation, illegally constructed rigid structures and makeshift stalls on both sides of the river were broken. 

Khulna District Administration Executive Magistrate, Md Zakir Hossain, led the operation.

Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Zakir Hossain said: “The operation has commenced to bring back the beauty of the city and to help clean up the clutter so that city residents can lead better lives.”

Earlier on Monday, KCC Mayor Talukder Abdul Khalek and Deputy Commissioner Md Helal Hossain visited the area. In addition to the Khulna district administration and KCC, the water development board and the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED are working in collaboration. An 11-member technical committee and a 25-member rescue committee have been formed to make the eviction process successful.

Roads and Highways Department demolishes illegal structures in different areas of Habiganj on Tuesday; February 05, 2019 | Dhaka TribuneLocal residents said fishing boats sailed the Mayur River two decades ago. The main source of livelihood of many fishing families was the river. However, occupation and pollution of the river has rendered it useless over the years.

In 2016, KCC spent Tk50 crore for a project to bring back the Mayur River to its original state but city dwellers claim efforts to implement the project were unsuccessful.

In Habiganj, more than 300 illegal structures built near the highway have been bulldozed to the ground.

The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has pulled down more than 200 illegal constructions with bulldozers, on both sides of the Dhaka-Sylhet highway in the Shayestaganj area. Around 100 structures were also pulled down in the Alipur area of Habiganj on Tuesday.

Habiganj RHD Executive Engineer, Md Jahirul Islam, said: “All illegal constructions will be evicted gradually on either side of the highway.”

Habiganj Executive Magistrate, Nahidul Hasan Chowdhury, conducted the drive to evict illegal structures by means of a a mobile court.

Hundreds of illegal structures were established at different points along the Shayestaganj and Alipur points on the Dhaka Sylhet highway. Due to this, pedestrians used the main road, causing traffic congestion and accidents. 

Local residents have been demanding the evacuation of illegal structures along the highway for a long time.

Earlier on Monday, the RHD authorities announced the removal of illegal constructions using loudspeakers.

A resident, Kamrul Islam, said: “The Roads and Highways Department has been requested to evict these structures for a long time but they did not listen. Finally, due to the evacuations, pedestrians and passengers will be safer.”

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