The function of the National River Protection Commission is to provide recommendations to the government to free rivers from illegal encroachment and ensure these are not illegally occupied again, according to the law.
Yet ruling party member of parliament Aslamul Haque organised a press conference and termed the river commission an “enemy and foe” for carrying out this duty. He has questioned the activities of the commission.
He has vented his anger against the commission because in a report on 11 November, it had pointed out that this MP of the Dhaka-14 seat had forcefully grabbed 54 acres of river area and water bodies. Yet the MP claimed he himself had written to the commission, asking if his land encroached upon the river boundaries.
The MP Aslamul Haque on Saturday afternoon called the press conference at his Maisha Group office in Dhanmondi of the capital city. During the press conference which continued for over an hour, he pointed to various documents and maps, terming the river commission’s views and recommendations as “false, fabricated, baseless and one-sided.” He even accused the commission’s chairman of violating the law and said he would take the matter up in court.
Aslamul Haque’s Arisha Private Economic Zone and Maisha Group Power Plant are located by the river on the other side of Mohammedpur’s Shaheed Buddhijibi Shetu (the bridge better known as Basila bridge). When BIWTA identified these structures as illegal and launched an eviction drive in March, the MP obstructed them. He then approached the court and also submitted an application to the National River Protection Commission to check whether his land encroached upon the rivers Buriganga and Turag.
Following the court directives and the hearing based on the MP’s appeal, the commission carried out a survey and inspection, reaching the conclusion that these structures were illegal. The commission ran the survey in coordination with eight agencies of the government.
Aslamul Haque said he had bought the land after proper assessment and checking all documents at the relevant land offices and in consultation with legal experts. He has even paid the taxes, he said, rejecting the river protection commission’s report.
The MP said that BIWTA and the National River Protection Commission were his adversaries. He said that these two organisations were placed together because the commission’s wages and allowances came from the shipping ministry. He said that the commission chairman had previously been the chairman of SPARRSO and so used officers who followed his orders to draw up the report.
In response to these allegations of the lawmaker, the National River Protection Commission chairman Muzibur Rahman Howladar told Prothom Alo that the report had been finalsed after scrutinsing the reports submitted by the different institutions. He said that the MP’s statements were fabricated and he had no right to speak against an organisation in such a manner.
The river areas cannot belong to anyone. Even if a government institution had handed him these areas, they have no authority to do so. So any discrepancies of government agencies in this regard must also be pointed out and they must also be held accountable.
Muzibur Rahman Howladar said that as an MP’s name was involved in the matter of encroachment, they made an extra effort to be flawless in their task. He said even if a scientist from NASA was brought, he wouldn’t be able to find fault in the report.
At the press conference it had been said that there was no land of Maisha Group or floodplains in the draft Detailed Area Plan. He said that the commission had given priority to the views of RAJUK planning expert Nabayan Khisha in preparing its ill-motivated recommendations.
Speaking over mobile phone to Prothom Alo about the matter, RAJUK planning expert Nabayan Khisha said the land occupied by the MP has been marked as floodplains and water bodies in DAP.
Environmentalists have said that it is unprecedented for a ruling party MP to make such defamatory remarks against any government institution.
Chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Rizwana Hasan, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that since the matter is under trial, it would have been befitting for the MP to have submitted his statement in writing to the court. Or he could have responded to the commission in writing.
Summoning a press conference and speaking in such a manner may be construed as an attempt to influence the court. And the documents that he has displayed have no basis. The river areas cannot belong to anyone. Even if a government institution had handed him these areas, they have no authority to do so. So any discrepancies of government agencies in this regard must also be pointed out and they must also be held accountable.