Construction of the infrastructure of Ashuganj Power Station Company Limited (APSCL) in Brahmanbaria has come to a temporary halt after Prothom Alo published a report titled 'Meghna being filled up to build power plant'. Despite the objections of local residents, lawmakers and the Water Development Board, APSCL remained steadfast in their position.
Representatives of the National River Protection Commission visited the spot and asked to stop sand extraction from the river. Mohammad Shafiullah, deputy chief water expert of the National River Protection Commission, said, "We will check the land documents and submit a report after talking to all the concerned government agencies. Our main concern is whether there is any damage to the river.” Officials from the BIWTA and the Water Development Board said the filled area appeared to be the part of the river.
Nasir Mia, a resident of Sohagpur village in Ashuganj upazila of Brahmanbaria, lodged a written complaint with the chairman and secretary of River Protection Commission and deputy director of the Ashuganj-Bhairab river port on 19 January alleging encroachment of riverine land. He urged the authorities to take measures to stop filling the Meghna to prevent impediment of its flow, destruction of the environment and river erosion.
He alleged that hundreds of acres of land along the banks of the Meghna River and inside the river were being illegally filled and this would change the course of the river. Besides, the village of Charsonarampur is also in danger of being washed away by the river.
Ikramul Islam Chowdhury, convener an environmental organiation Nongor of Ashuganj upazila, told Prothom Alo that the banks of the Meghna have been occupied and filled. As a result, the course of the river may change. Besides, crop lands along the river in Sohagpur area of the upazila, Charsonarampur village, power transmission towers in some districts and Ashuganj port will also be at risk.
Recently, a representative of Prothom Alo visited the APSCL rest house about two kilometres north of Ashuganj port. New walls of 150 to 200 feet width and 2,000-2,500 feet length have been constructed from the boundary wall towards the river and filled with sand. According to APSCL sources, the Ashuganj Power Station was set up on the banks of the Meghna River in 1966-67 as it was easy to transport heavy equipment and get gas. At that time 311 acres of land of Sohagpur, Sonarampur and Bahadurpur mouzas of the upazila were acquired. In 2003, the power plant was transformed into a company.
The explanation given by APSCL in response to Prothom Alo's report is not acceptable at all. They cannot use the land arbitrarily as they have acquired it during the Pakistan period. Before any installation or development work, it should be seen whether there is any environmental risk or whether the river is damaged. If their activities are so transparent, then why didn't they get clearance from the department of environment earlier?
We think that nothing can be done without the recommendation of the River Protection Commission or the clearance of the environment department. Power plants have to be established keeping rivers, environment and floodplains unharmed.