Kushtia, May 23 (UNB) – The local administration has identified at least 3,000 encroachers who have illegally occupied the banks of rivers and canals in the district, obstructing their water flow.
These encroachers have built houses, shops and markets on the rivers and canals. Now, the authorities concerned are trying to free the banks in six upazilas of the district.
“The rivers and canals have been illegally occupied,” kushtia Deputy Commissioner Aslam Hossain said. “We’ll take every step to restore the normal flow of the water bodies.”
Already, the administration has conducted an eviction drive in GK Ghat area on the Garai River bank in the district town.
Officials said many structures have been built on the banks of the Padma, Garai and Hisna rivers, and canals under Ganga-Kopotakkhya irrigation project.
The Hisna River in Bheramara upazila is hardly recognisable with houses and shops on both sides while farmers are growing paddy on the dried-up river beds.
Locals said big trawlers used to ply the once vibrant river but now it has dried up because of illegal encroachment.
Bheramara Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Sohel Maruf said a list containing names of 200 encroachers was sent to the deputy commissioner. “The number is higher,” he said. “The river was illegally occupied at various times and the water level has subsequently gone down.”
According to the water development board, at least 2,921 encroachers are occupying the banks of the Padma, Garai and the irrigation project’s canals. Most of the houses are made of brick and there are some tin-shed shops, too.
These encroachers have been living here for a long time, officials said.
WDB Executive Engineer Pijush Krishna Kundu said dredging at various canals has started. “We’ve served notices to the land grabbers,” he said. “We’re conducting drives to free the water bodies.”
Khalilur Rahman Maju, former president of Sacheton Nagorik Committee, said illegal establishments and pollution have destroyed the rivers.
“The rate of river encroachment and pollution is very high in Kushtia. Since the land grabbers have been identified, the administration should bring them to book and free the water bodies,” he said.