Mentioning that he has taken the task of protecting rivers as a challenge, state minister for shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury has said he will save all the rivers, including the four around capital Dhaka, from illegal encroachment at any cost.

“I’m on a mission to protect rivers and will be there. There’ll be no compromise in this regard. I’ll reclaim all the rivers, including the four around Dhaka, and finish the demarcation work,” he told UNB in an interview.

When the government itself takes the responsibility to protect anything, it cannot fail, the state minister said, adding that the ongoing drive to reclaim rivers all over the country will be a success.

“The rivers will be reclaimed and our drive will continue against the grabbers irrespective of their identity,” he said.

The state minister said different welfare-oriented projects have been taken to free the four rivers around Dhaka from encroachment and pollution and bring back their navigability.

“We’ve already taken a project to construct infrastructures, including walkways, jetties and boundary pillars, on the land reclaimed from encroachment along the Buriganga, Turag, Shitalakkhya and Balu rivers,” he said.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) is implementing the project and a meeting has already been held with all stakeholders.

The state minister said a total of 152 acres of land have been freed from encroachment in recent drives by the BIWTA.

Work on the project at a cost of Tk. 8.48 billion has already begun and it will end by June 2022, he added.

The project includes installing 10,820 boundary pillars and construction of 52-km walkway, 40 kms of key wall, 12 kms of piling, planting trees, three eco parks, two tourist-friendly parks, 0.3 km RCC bridge, 105.12 km railings, six pontoons, six excavators, 11 RCC jetties, 38 spurs, 100 RCC stairways and 409 benches.

In the first phase, 803 boundary pillars will be installed.

A contract has already been signed to procure the long-boom excavators and pontoons.

Khalid said Dhaka will be protected by implementing prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s programmes and a community police force will be introduced to protect the rivers.

He said the government of Sheikh Hasina is very sincere about protecting the rivers. ”It declared removal of illegal structures when it came to power in 1996. However, the BNP failed to protect the rivers when they were in power.”

In the 2019-20 financial year, the shipping ministry implemented 49 projects at a cost of Tk. 47.13 billion, the state minister said.

Of the projects, 40 projects are under the Annual Development Programme (ADP) while the rest nine are being financed by the ministry.