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A month ago, the shipping ministry issued a letter for an eviction drive to remove an illegal economic zone and power plant on the banks of the Turag and Buriganga rivers. However, instead of following the ministry’s directives, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) and Dhaka district administration sent a letter to the National River Conservation Commission to take up an integrated plan. Aslamul Haque, member of parliament from the ruling Awami League in the Dhaka-14 constituency, is the owner of these two illegal installations.

The eviction letter signed by Md Aminur Rahman, deputy secretary of the shipping ministry, was sent to BIWTA and Dhaka district administration on 12 January. The letter said, “A request has been made to conduct an eviction drive with the cooperation of the deputy commissioner of Dhaka on the basis of a letter from the National River Conservation Commission.”

Md Alauddin, a full time member of the river conservation commission, told Prothom Alo that BIWTA should make the plan for the eviction. The river conservation commission does not have the authority to take any step regarding this.

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‘Arisha Private Economic Zone'’ and ‘Maisha Group Power Plant’ have been set up next to the Shaheed Buddhijibi bridge (known as the Bosila bridge) in Mohammadpur. These two installations are located near the confluence of the Buriganga and Turag rivers. In March last year, MP Aslam obstructed the eviction drive conducted by the BIWTA. Later he moved to the court and applied to the river conservation committee to conduct a joint survey to determine if the land occupied by him actually falls within the boundary of the Turag or the Buriganga river.

After completing the hearing, a survey and inspection was carried out on the basis of the court order and MP’s request. The national river conservation commission confirmed that these installations were illegal. The report from the commission said, MP Aslam claimed in his application that his properties cover a land over 51 acres. However, the survey revealed that the structures cover an area of more than 54 acres. These have occupied around 8 acres of the banks of Buriganga and the Turag rivers and the dock, and 13 acres of the river. The rest of the land falls under the Detailed Area Plan (DAP).

Regarding the eviction drive, BIWTA chairman Commodore Golam Sadeq told Prothom Alo that only eight acres of the 54 acres land occupied by MP Aslam belong to the BIWTA. They can set up boundary pillars there at any time. The main installations are within the area of the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) and Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) property. They have no idea of when the concerned authorities will remove illegal installations from their land.

A BIWTA official said that MP Aslam has filed nine cases at various courts requesting a stay of the eviction drive on the lands occupied by him. In four of these cases, the verdicts have come in favour of the BIWTA. However, after losing the cases, the MP refused to accept the verdicts. BIWTA has also sent a letter to the attorney general in this regard.

Md Shahidul Islam, the deputy commissioner of Dhaka, told Prothom Alo that the letter for eviction was actually sent to BIWTA. The BIWTA chairman says the eviction driver is a huge undertaking. An integrated plan is needed for its implementation. He has sent a letter to the commission in this regard. The district administration will provide all kinds of help if the commission or the BIWTA can come up with a plan for the eviction.

The river conservation committee said in their report that the rivers are owned by the state and the public according to the law. It is illegal to occupy, sell or lease these lands in person under any circumstances. The report also said that MP Aslam's illegal occupation and construction was due to the negligence on the part of government agencies.

When asked about the reluctance in conducting an eviction drive despite a letter from the ministry in this regard, Manzil Morshed, a Supreme Court lawyer associated with the river conservation movement, told Prothom Alo that it proves that the concerned parties lack in commitment to remove the illegal installations owned by MP Aslam. There is no legal barrier in this eviction. The concerned parties can run an eviction drive at any time in coordination with each other.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashish Basu

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