Due to encroachment, 470km of 27 rivers have already lost their navigability
Illegal structures have narrowed Andarmanik, Shibbaria, Tiakhali and Aapangashia rivers in Kalapara upazila of Patuakhali, thanks to mindless encroachment by some local influential quarters.
Local people said some influentials in the upazila are building several establishments including partially concrete and multi-storied buildings occupying the river banks.
Although the spot is not far away from the upazila land office the local administration did not take any initiative regarding the matter, they alleged.
While visiting the area recently, this correspondent found illegal structures have been built on the bank of Khaprabhanga River in Alipur, Mohishpur, Chapli and Lakshmi Bazar areas.
This correspondent found construction of many structures has already been completed and construction work for the other structures are in progress.
Multi-storied buildings have been built on the bank of Aapangashia River.
The influential people take the soil from the river bank for brickfields with the help of local administration.
At least 20 concrete, semi-concrete buildings have been built on the Tiakhali River at Nachnapara point near the municipality bus stand.
Mangrove forests on two sides of the river have already been destroyed due to encroachment, said sources.
When asked, a land grabber in the area, seeking anonymity said he got the land from his father but failed to show any legal document regarding the ownership of the land.
Jagat Bandhu Mondol, assistant commissioner (land) in Kalapara, said the concerned authorities will launch an eviction drive soon to remove the illegal structures from the river bank.
Kalapara Upazila Nirbahi Officer Abu Hasnat Mohammad said lawful action will be taken against the grabbers.
Around one-third of 62 rivers in the Barisal division have lost navigability, causing suspension of vessel operation in around 460km of 27 waterways, said several media reports on January 20.
A survey titled "The feasibility of river management by increasing the navigability of rivers in Barisal division, reducing water logging, restoring wetland ecosystems, increasing irrigation and landing facilities" was presented at a program organised by Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority at Barisal Circuit House.
Citing the survey, Mizanur Rahman, a river morphologist and research associate at CEGIS, also said there were 1,475km waterways in 62 rivers in the division. Of these, 470km of 27 rivers have already lost their navigability.
The study noted that the country's rivers are filling up due to siltation, occupation and river erosion from the upper stream and recommended dredging after conducting a comprehensive survey on its conservation.
Addressing the program, environmentalists, civil society members and journalists called for the eviction of illegal occupants while launch owners appealed for dredging round the year.