CPA served show cause notice
Different establishments like jetties, shops, canteens, clubs, fertilizer manufacturing companies, power oil plants, and dry docks have sprung up illegally over time on both sides of the Karnaphuli River, in the process choking the river which is known as the lifeline of Chittagong.
This can be attributed to the lax attitude of the concerned authorities.
An inspection report prepared by the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) revealed the appalling encroachment scenario of the river.
On April 21, 2019, NRCC Chairman Dr Muzibur Rahman Howlader made a visit to the river and found that different organizations were constructing structures encroaching on the riverbanks.
The commission’s full time member Md Alauddin, members Sharmeen Soneya Murshid, Moniruzzaman and Md Aminul Islam, hydrologist Sazidur Rahman, Chittagong Additional Deputy Commissioner (revenue) Delwar Hossain, and several other officials were present during the inspection.
According to the commission’s inspection report, construction work was underway for a new jetty adjacent to jetty no 15 of the Chittagong port.
The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) project called 'Patenga Landing Station Construction' was being implemented jointly by Chittagong Dry Dock Ltd and Bangladesh Navy over an area of 40 decimals, which is part of Karnaphuli River as per government land survey.
However, no prior permission was obtained for the construction work.
The commission also found that the river bank was being filled up by earth and sand which constricted and obstructed the river flow, which is in total violation of the existing rules.
The CPA does not have any right to damage or obstruct the natural flow of the river. No agency can undertake any development project and obstruct the free flow of the river without protecting the foreshore the inspection report pointed out.
Any jetty expansion project should commence keeping a safe distance from the river foreshore. Asking to stop the work immediately without further delay, the commission requested the district administration to evict all illegal structures from the river.
It was revealed that the CPA leased out five acres of land to Incontrade Ltd. It was found that three acres of the land fell within the river boundary, when the illegal structures of the Karnaphuli were identified back in 2015.
Currently, Incontrade Ltd has filled up 19 acres of area and an adjacent canal which falls within the river boundary.
According to the map, the canal is 46 feet wide, but has now shrunk to 15 feet due to the encroachment.
The CPA leased out land adjacent to the Chittagong Airport runway to Smart Trading which is within the river area as per land survey. The commission found that the earth-filling was ongoing in the river.
As stated by NRCC’s report, seven brick kilns, constructed encroaching on the river foreshore on the south side of the port, were heavily polluting the environment.
The report also mentioned that Karnaphuli Fertilizer Company Ltd and Chittagong Urea Fertilizer Ltd were constructed on the river jetty. Currently, United Power Oil Plant is constructing another jetty which is also obstructing the river flow.
During the inspection, members of the commission acknowledged that the way the grabbing spree is going on, Karnaphuli River, known as the gateway of Chittagong port, would soon narrow down.
Consequently, the floodplain of the river will not be able to retain additional water during floods. Moreover, the conveyance capacity of the river will sharply fall. The river will fail to combat natural calamities like cyclone, storm and tidal surge as the sea level is rising due to climate change. Furthermore, the navigability of the river will also be at risk, mentioned the inspection report.
According to the State Acquisition and Tenancy Act, 1950, river foreshore cannot be leased out and no organization can build structures encroaching or filling up the river.
However, river foreshore has been allotted to Karnaphuli Dry Dock Special Economic Zone Ltd, violating the aforementioned act.
In its inspection report, the commission observed that no economic endeavours are allowed at the heavy cost of the Karnaphuli River and its water resources.
After inspecting the river on December 12, 2018, the commission forwarded a report with a 16-point recommendation to the concerned government agencies in order to save the river.
In the report, the river commission requested the district administration to evict all the illegal structures based on the list of the grabbers. The CPA was asked to cooperate with the district administration regarding the eviction drives.
However, the commission condemned the lack of action regarding the implementation of the recommendations.
Md Alauddin, full time member of the NRCC, told Dhaka Tribune that very little progress has been made with regard to the eviction of the illegal structures from the riverbanks.
“We have made some suggestions and recommendations in the inspection report; however, hardly any step has been taken based on them,” remarked Alauddin.
Replying to a query, Alauddin said that the district is facing fund constraints and manpower shortage, preventing execution of the eviction drives.
“The illegal structures have been built on the land of Chittagong Port. The CPA has leased out the structures to different organizations which is why CPA itself should take the initiative to evict the illegal establishments,” he said, adding that they would follow up on the matter and ask the CPA again to carry out the evictions.
Contacted, Department of Environment Director (Chittagong Metro) Mohammad Nurullah Noori said they have served a show-cause notice to the CPA to attend a hearing on March 10, on charge of damaging the environment by filling up Karnaphuli riverbank.
Eminent Karnaphuli researcher Prof Dr Md Edris Ali blamed the lack of coordination among the concerned organizations for stalling the eviction drives.
“There is a serious lack of coordination among the government agencies. The CPA has leased out its land to different organizations without taking permission from the district administration. Moreover, the river commission should be given more power so that it can take effective steps to conserve the rivers of the country,” added the researcher.