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Karnaphuli in Peril: Eviction drives against encroachments remain suspended

  • Published at 07:45 pm November 3rd, 2020
Birds eye view of a portion of the Karnaphuli River in Chittagong Wikimedia Commons

On August 16 in 2016, the High Court had directed the authorities concerned to remove 2,112 structures illegally built on the banks of the river

Chittagong district administration launched the long-awaited eviction drives on Karnaphuli River banks on February 4 last year.

Forty acres of land were reclaimed during the eviction drives that were conducted in two phases.

However, since then the eviction drives on the banks of the river, also known as the lifeline of Chittagong, have remained stalled for more than a year.

Taking advantage of the suspension of eviction drives, many additional structures have already sprung up encroaching the river banks.

According to Chittagong district administration, the eviction drives on the river banks have remained suspended due to Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the green activists termed the excuse of the local administration as unacceptable and demanded resuming the eviction drives immediately.

Contacted, National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) Chairman Dr Muzibur Rahman Howlader told the Dhaka Tribune that Covid-19 pandemic cannot be a reasonable excuse for not resuming the eviction drives.

Aliur Rahman, general secretary of Movement to Protect Rivers and Canals of Chittagong told the Dhaka Tribune that the suspension of eviction drives would be tantamount to defiance of High Court order.

“The eviction drives have remained suspended due to the callous attitude of the local administration. The local public representatives are also to blame since they are not mounting any pressure on the local administration,” said the green activist, adding that the river has already shrunk to 410 metres from 866 metres in width at Shah Amanat Bridge point in a span of just six years. 

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

Citing media reports on rampant encroachment, the writ petition had been filed, seeking the High Court’s directives on the government to save the river.

The High Court bench of Justice Md Rezaul Hasan and Justice Kashefa Hussain had passed the order after hearing the writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, a rights organization, in July 2010.

A number of individuals, business and slums owners are accused of erecting illegal structures at Bakalia, Patenga, Madrabari, Ghosail Danga, Monoharkhali, and Firingi Bazar areas on the river bank.

In conversation with the Dhaka Tribune, noted Karnaphuli researcher Prof Dr Muhammad Edris Ali said that the eviction drives have remained suspended due to lack of professionalism and willingness on the part of the local administration.

“The administration resorts to different excuses for evading their responsibilities. The eviction drives could not begin for a long time due to fund constraints. This time it’s the excuse of the pandemic,” said Prof Edris.

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Chittagong Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) SM Zakaria said that the pace of the eviction drives slackened due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

“We have a plan to resume the eviction drives soon,” the ADC said.

The government official, however, could not come up with any tentative schedule for resuming the eviction drives.

Karnaphuli River originated in the Lushai hills in the Mizoram State of India. In Bangladesh part, the river travelled 187 kilometres before draining into the Bay of Bengal.

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