Locals say, as a result of aggressive sand lifting, homes, croplands, schools, mosques, and other establishments on the Brahmaputra riverbanks have been lost to the river
Rampant sand lifting activities carried out by a local Awami League leader is causing large-scale ecological damage to the Brahmaputra River and its adjacent embankment areas in Rowmari upazila of Kurigram.
Using his position of influence, Surujjamal Hossain, the religious affairs secretary of Rowmari upazila unit Awami League, is flouting all environmental laws by operating illegal sand extraction activities.
Locals say, as a result of aggressive sand lifting, homes, croplands, schools, mosques, and other establishments on the Brahmaputra riverbanks have been lost to the river.
Last September, a joint mobile court carried out by the National Security Intelligence (NSI) and the upazila administration ordered Surujjamal to stop all dredging and sand extraction activities within three days.
It has been three months since then, but illegal sand lifting has yet to stop. In fact, sand extraction activities have become more aggressive than ever with additional illegal dredgers installed.
On a visit to the Brahmaputra riverbanks, this correspondent saw dredgers in rows installed from Dhanarchar to Kartimari jetty. Moreover, a road is being constructed in the middle of the Brahmaputra River by obstructing its water flow near Kartimari jetty.
Surujjamal and his sand trader associates are constructing the road to transport sand illegally extracted from the Brahmaputra, say locals.
Last Sunday, Abdul Khaleq, president of Ward 1 of Jadurchar Union Awami League, lodged a written complaint with the upazila nirbahi officer against Surujjamal’s rampant sand lifting activities.
Abdul Khaleq said: “Surujjamal and his sand trader associates have been getting away with their illegal sand lifting, worsening the riverbank erosion and causing river bed degradation.
“The upazila administration has yet to take any action in response to my written complaint lodged almost two weeks ago.”
Contacted, Awami League leader Surujjamal Hossain denied the allegations, saying: “I am being falsely accused by my opposition as part of a conspiracy to jeopardize my reputation ahead of the union parishad election.”
On his sons being in the sand extraction business, Surujjamal said: “I have registered land in the river. My sons extract sand from that land. But, I’m not a part of it.”
Admitting to filling the river to build a road to transport sand, he said: “As the river dried out and char areas surfaced, I am paving a road to get to my land.”
Acknowledging the rise in large-scale sand lifting, Rowmari Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Al-Imran said: “We have taken cognizance of the issue. The assistant commissioner (Land) has already been directed to take action in this regard. Soon, strict legal action will be taken against illegal sand miners.”