A member of parliament (MP) of ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) is setting up a power plant in Manikganj, disrupting the flow of the Dhaleshwari river, said officials and green activists.
“We’ve lodged a complaint against the power company for grabbing government land and land of the river. We’ll do everything to protect the river and the land,” Nazmus Sadat Selim of the district administration told Prothom Alo.
A company named Doreen Power Limited, owned by ruling Awami League MP from Jhenaidah-2 Tahjib Alam Siddique, is authorised to construct the 162 mega watt power plant - Manikganj Power Generations Limited - in Singair upazila of Manikganj .
A member of parliament of ruling party in Manikganj is also involved in the process of implementation of the project, according to local people.
The power plant is being constructed on 10 acres of land in Singair. Of the land where sand is filled up, one acre is of the Dahaleshwari river and one and half acres belongs to the government, according to the district administration.
However, National River Commission chairman Mujibur Rahman Hawlader claimed that the entire land of 10 acres belongs to the Dhaleshwari river.
The periphery of a river covers an area up to where the water flows during the tide, he argued.
“We’ve asked the district administration to evict all infrastructures from there and return the river land,” Mujibur Rahman told Prothom Alo.
As per rules, the company is supposed to take no objection certificate from the local administration for construction of a power plant. But, officials said, the company did not do so. It is yet to get clearance from the environment department.
The Doreen Power Limited authorities said they are constructing a power plant in Manikganj at a cost of Tk 8 billion.
The authorities admitted those who were tasked with fill developing the land filled up two and half acres land, by mistake. The authorities also claimed it had removed the sand from the area.
While visiting the area, this correspondent, however, found that a vast area is filled with sand, adjacent to the main road of Fordnagar village of Singair upazila in Manikganj.
Local people, when asked, said not only did this power project but also many other organisations grab land of the Dhaleshawari river and erect pillars.
The chairman of National River Commission and a delegation of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) recently visited the area. They held an exchange of views meeting with the locals and the administration.
The Singair land office lodged a case against five people including main Md Mostafa Moyeen, director of Northern Power, a sister concern of Doreen.
According to the case statement, infrastructures are being built forcibly on 11 acres and 30 decimal of land including the land of the Dhaleshwari by filling up the sand.
The local land office has tried several times to stop the construction, said officials. The district administration also put up red flag in the area and served legal notice. The river commission too asked the authorities to stop the construction.
But the project implementing authorities did not pay any heed to all the request or official directions.
MP Tahjib Alam Siddique, also managing director of Doreen Power Limited, denied the allegation. “We lawfully bought the land from the genuine land owners,” Siddique claimed.
Terming the allegation a conspiracy, he said, “We have already removed the sand from 2.5 acres of land as per the district administration’s order. We’ll remove more if the government asks us to do so. We’ll comply with the rules and regulations.”
Power division officials said in November last year, the Doreen Power has been given permission to construct a 162 mega watt furnace oil plant in Manikganj’s Singair upazila.
It secured the permission under Speedy Supply of Pwer and Energy (Special Provision) Act, though they did not submit any tender in this regard.
BAPA joint secretary Sharif Jamil told Prothom Alo that not only in the Dhaleswari river, power plants are being constructed by grabbing rivers across the country.
He also expressed apprehensions that the rivers of the country would be dried up if such grabbing continues.
* This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam and Galib Ashraf