Locals are afraid to speak up against the powerful syndicate of people with political backing engaged in this illicit sand racket
The century-old Anandabazar market in Narayanganj’s Sonargaon upazila is on the verge of destruction, with illegal sand mining continuing unabated in the Meghna River for over five years now.
Locals say the lives and properties of people of at least six villages on the banks of the river are at risk as well as a syndicate of locally influential people relentlessly continue to mine sand in broad daylight without any government approval.
On a field visit, this correspondent found at least 20-30 powerful dredgers in Sonamui, Anandabazar, and Aman Economic Zone areas, ceaselessly digging sand. Near the dredgers, 20-25 sand carrying barges were being loaded with the mined sand, while armed local goons were monitoring the process.
Locals are afraid to speak up against the powerful syndicate of people with political backing engaged in this illicit sand racket.
Seeking anonymity, locals from Sonamui, said a syndicate led by Ismail Hossain, Baidyerbazar UP member, and his son Rakib, a notorious drug dealer, have been illegally mining hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of sand out of the Meghna River.
Sheltered by local authorities, they have at least 10 powerful dredgers working day and night, collecting sand and making millions, they allege.
Local businessmen say goods could easily be transported to and from Anandabazar before the rampant sand lifting. At this rate, the market may not survive very long.
In Nunertek area of the upazila, around 20 homes were destroyed by river erosion. About a hundred more homes, six educational institutions, and religious institutions are also at risk. This will inevitably happen unless the illegal sand extraction is stopped, said affected locals.
One of the accused, Ismail Hossain, member of Baidyerbazar Union Parishad, denied being involved in illegal sand mining. "I was once a part of the illegal sand mining syndicate. But after being warned, I quit."
Sonargaon Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Anjan Kumar Sarker said: "We have received specific complaints regarding illegal sand mining in the Anandabazar area. If the allegations are found to be valid, prompt legal action will be taken against the people responsible."