Rehabilitation of riverbanks and improvement of navigability
Wasi Ahmed |
Sept. 14, 2021, 10:04 p.m.
Rivers are considered one of the most vulnerable victims of neglect and public assault in this country, especially those that flow near or around townships, business centers and urban settlements. It is a centuries-old tale of anarchy and total anarchy, to say the least — fueled by greed, and more than anything, the failure of the authorities to curb the influence of powerful neighborhoods or individuals. who find rivers and banks. a potentially lucrative spoiler. As river grabbing – aptly dubbed after greed for land on riverbanks – has continued unabated for decades, the lack of navigability of most rivers has become a cause of misery. total public. The occasional efforts of the relevant government agency, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) to save land from grabbers have not been enough to convince citizens that they are serious in their task. On the other hand, there has also always been an element of cynicism about the government’s position to stand firm and stable to put things in order.
We have seen many impulses in the past, most of them poorly organized, thus rendered ineffective and unsuccessful. However, the initiative taken by BIWTA in 2019 deserves to be commended as it was much better coordinated, well organized and, according to the public perception, strongly supported by political will. The campaign to evict unauthorized installations has had considerable success, mainly on the banks of the major rivers around the capital, including the Buriganga, Turag and Shitalakhya. Well-built structures including multi-story buildings, warehouses and even factories have been demolished and land reclaimed. Certainly, some partisan groups have managed to stay safe and unharmed under various pretexts, including a court verdict in their favor. However, as the campaign gathered momentum with overwhelming public support, there was a feeling that those unscathed would soon meet the same fate as the rest. Unfortunately, the training, the strongest ever, did not last long enough. Funding was, it seemed, one of the main constraints.
What was important to do following the eviction work carried out at that time was to draw the lines of demarcation on the foreshore of the rivers in order to stop a greater encroachment. Work began after some time on a project to install demarcation pillars, set up bank protection devices, walkways and other allied development works on the banks of the Buriganga River. , Turag, Balu and Sitalakhya — the four rivers encircling the city capital which are all subject to all kinds of abuse. Project work has slowed down due to the pandemic, and now due to the time and cost overrun, the BIWTA has reportedly requested more funding from the government to complete the project by 2024. In its revised proposal, the BIWTA has incorporated new components, including the construction of 35.35 kilometers of drain along the walkways and changes to the rate schedule as the main reasons for requesting the overhaul. The erection of 3,850 boundary markers, the construction of 17.75 kilometers of footbridge and the removal of 18.21 cubic meters of earth and the establishment of four stations and 14 jetties for river transport are the main components of the project. project.
According to observers and experts, the identification of the demarcation lines faces certain difficulties because there is an element of imprecision in some places as to the exact points on which to erect the demarcation pillars. It may be noted in this regard that in 2009 the High Court issued a directive to the government to draw demarcation lines in accordance with the cadastre and revised survey records, retaining the eroded areas. Although no work in this regard has been done despite the HC Directive, experts believe that doing it now in accordance with the Directive would eliminate all confusion. There are, however, newspaper articles citing a study report published in January 2021 by the River and Delta Research Center, which found that BIWTA had installed 1,423 river boundary pillars in the wrong places. The authorities must urgently address the issue to avoid any controversy in this regard.
Although the proper placement of the demarcation pillars is a crucial task after land reclamation during months of hard work by BIWTA and law enforcement, there is still much to be done in terms of land reclamation from the illegal occupants. Since there has been no concerted effort for decades in this regard, it is indeed difficult to continue to do both works at once — the refurbishment and installation of a large number of pillars of demarcation. However, given the intimidating nature of the job, it feels like the two jobs have to go on simultaneously to do a great job — hopefully once and for all.
There is more to the subject. The navigability of some of the aforementioned rivers is seriously threatened. Due to the earth filling by clamps, some of the vital river channels no longer exist and must be restored to their original state. In addition, improving overall airworthiness, especially during the lean season, is extremely important. It can be noted that due to a lack of seaworthiness, the water bus service, which caused a lot of noise, was not able to succeed. There are of course other reasons for the failure of the water bus service, but if the seaworthiness had been at a satisfactory level things might not have turned out badly.
The government is likely to give the green light to the revised draft after review. The rest will depend on BIWTA to organize its activities in a resolute and concerted manner in the interest of the public good and the environment.