'Karnaphuli shrinks due to encroachment'

Waste from surrounding factories mixes in the Karnaphuli river every day. The photo was taken near the Fisharighat area in Chattogram on 25 September 2021.Sowrav Das

The Karnaphuli river has shrunk due to illegal occupation. The Chaktai canal beside the Chawkbazar and Ghatfarhadbeg area, once the centre point of business, looks like a drain nowadays. Instead of the boats, garbage floats on this canal all the time.

The pollution in the adjacent river and canals has also increased. The illegal occupants are more responsible than nature in this case. Despite an order by the High Court, it had not been possible to free the river banks from grabbers. Although an initiative had been taken two and a half years ago, it stopped midway.

The High Court (HC) ordered to evict all the illegal installations on the banks of the Karnaphuli river on 16 August 2016 after Monjeel Morshed, lawyer of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, filed a writ in this regard.

A year ago, Chattogram district administration identified a total of 2,112 illegal installations on the river banks and submitted a report on this following an order from the HC.

On 26 August, the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) ordered the demarcation of the Karnaphuli river and eviction of all the illegal installations on its bank including the estuary of Chaktai and Rajakhali canal. NRCC secretary Md Aminul Islam gave the order in response to an appeal from Chattogram Nodi o Khal Rokkha Andolon.

The river is shrinking

Chattogram Nodi o Khal Rokkha Andolon conducted surveys on different parts of the Karnaphuli river last year. It showed that the width of the river near the Shah Amanat bridge was 510 metres during the tide.

According to the measurement of Asian Development Bank (ADB), the width of the river in the same area was 886 metres in 2014. The width at the mouth of the Chaktai canal was 898 metres which decreased to 436 metres later.

Aliur Rahman, general secretary of the organisation, said the river is getting smaller due to encroachment and pollution. A letter has been sent to the commission for the eviction of illegal establishments.

Retired college teacher Idris Ali's research report on Karnaphuli has been published in the North American Research Journal.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said, various government and non-government organisations are involved in the occupation and pollution of Karnaphuli. The width of the river has decreased due to brabbing. Besides, there are also unplanned excavations. Due to the lack of awareness of the people, a layer of polythene has gathered at the bottom of Karnaphuli as well.

Allegation against some political leaders

The eviction drive first started in February 2019. A total of 20 acres of land were recovered. The port authority then started an eviction drive in the Laldiar Char area. Their eviction drive is at the final stage. The eviction drive is yet to be conducted in the slum that sprang up around the third bridge over the Karnaphuli river.

Regarding the illegal occupation the slum dwellers pointed towards some leaders of the ruling party.