According to Comilla City Corporation sources, almost 258.74 acres of the river stretching from the Sadar upazila to Comilla municipality are now under the grasp of 522 listed land grabbers
The mighty Gumti River, once known as the "Sorrow of Comilla" for its menacing current and destructive floods, is now slowly turning into a narrow canal as encroachers continue to feast on its embankments by constructing illegal structures.
Originating from Dumur in the north eastern hilly region of India’s Tripura state, the Gumti was once a hilly river of strong current. But the river has now lost its navigability, current and even its natural course.
Locals say, since the river course was altered to save the town from concurrent floods, encroachers began constructing buildings, sewerage lines on its banks; gradually they closed in by piling up waste, to later claim the banks as their land.
According to Comilla City Corporation sources, almost 258.74 acres of the river stretching from the Sadar upazila to Comilla municipality are now under the grasp of 522 listed land grabbers.
Government land rented, sold
Land grabbers are relentless at renting, leasing, and selling these government owned riverine lands to locals providing them fake documents, locals said.
Mizanur Rahman, a riverside house owner, said: "I had to borrow money to buy this land. The previous owners did not provide any legal papers and now the district administration is trying to evict me from my home.
With Mizanur, Mobarak Hossain and multiple other house owners echoed the same concerns.
Initiatives to revive it
In a 2016 letter to the Additional Deputy Commissioner Abul Fazal Mir, Assistant Commissioner (Land) Md Shamim Hossain of Adarsha Sadar upazila, asked the authority to evict the illegal land grabbers and save the river.
However, locals say, despite repetitive attempts by the authority, the situation remained the same, as they always failed to evict the illegal structures.
Comilla City Corporation Mayor Monirul Haque Sakku said: "The district administration office is responsible to oversee the conservation of the river. However, the city corporation is looking to provide assistance in this regard.
"We hope the plan to restore the beauty of the Gumti River and make it a public recreational spot like Hatirjheel is soon approved," the mayor added.