This reaffirmed that Bangladesh has a significant weakness in data collection and record-keeping. Without the necessary data, important administrative actions cannot take place, to say the least.
The fact that the judiciary needs to step in so frequently to direct the administration to perform its basic duties should be noted with much greater concern. This should also result in higher accountability from the government, particularly if it continues to trivialize the directions of the courts.
The court had passed numerous directions regarding the matter but there is still no comprehensive official data determining river areas. As the petitioner for the writ rightly pointed out, inaccuracy in this vital data facilitates the illegal grabbing of river land.
The Water Development Board data shows that there are 405 rivers in Bangladesh while National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) data says that there are 707, and findings of a private study put the number at 1,182, according to the writ petition. As the number of rivers remained undetermined, so did the number of illegal occupiers.
According to the NRCC, there are 57,390 listed illegal occupiers, a highly conservative number no doubt, as reports published by national dailies cite a higher figure. What is clear is that there are discrepancies in the record.
While the authorities should take immediate action to comply with the court's direction, measures should not stop there. Bangladesh's rivers must be saved from illegal occupiers and it is the government's job to get this done.