We welcome the Appellate Division verdict

Illegal sand extractor Selim Khan, also a UP chairman, is a living example of abuse of power and political malpractice for personal gain. This elected unopposed people’s representative also used the High Court for his commercial interst. This leader gained a minister’s favour after joining Awami League switching off from BNP and Jatiya Party. No one was held accountable. For eight years, he has indiscriminately extracted sand from the Meghna shoal and amassed huge wealth. He destroyed the Padma and Meghna rivers by extracting sand that pushed the city of Chandpur under threat. Finally, the decision of the Appellate Division stopped the extraction of sand from the Meghna shoal.

According to Prothom Alo, the Appellate Division has quashed the High Court verdict that allowed Selim Khan four years ago to extract sand from the Meghna river in 21 mouzas of Chandpur Sadar and Haimchar upazilas. The three-member Appellate Division headed by chief justice Hasan Foez Siddiqui passed the order on Sunday. The other two members of the bench are justice Obaidul Hasan and justice M Enayetur Rahim.

Earlier, on 2 March, Prothom Alo published a report about Selim Khan. It is learned that Selim Khan, chairman of Lakshmipur union parishad no. 10 of Chandpur Sadar upazila, extracted sand from the Meghna river for commercial purposes ignoring the government restrictions in the name of made the waterways operational.

In the last eight years, he has pocketed around Tk 28.8 billion by extracting sand with small and big dredgers. Officials from the department of environment and the fisheries research institute said the city of Chandpur had lost some of its embankment due to indiscriminate sand mining in the Meghna. The bank of the river also eroded.

Following the final hearing of the writ petition filed by Selim Khan on 5 April, 2018, the High Court directed the defendants, including the deputy commissioner of Chandpur, to allow him to extract 304.8 million cubic feet of sand from the Meghna river in 21 mouzas of Chandpur. Four years after the ruling, the state filed a leave to appeal in March.

Based on the hydrographic survey, the High Court ruled in favour of sand extraction from the Meghna river. According to the Leave to appeal, the High Court Division did not realise that the hydrographic survey report is not the sole basis for extracting sand from a river under the Sand Quarry and Soil Management Act.

During the hearing of the leave to appeal, the Appellate Division said, "How has the High Court asked (Selim Khan) to give him permission? The High Court has issued the lease. Is the High Court a leasing authority?” The apex court told Selim’s Khan’s lawyer, “When your client is the sole beneficiary, no public interest is left there.”

We welcome the decision of the Appellate Division to scrap the permission of sand extraction from the Meghna river. Besides the process of amassing millions by Selim Khan for eight years must be properly investigated. Appropriate legal action must be taken to offset the damage he has done to state property and recover the revenue he has deprived the government of. Not only the Meghna, but also other rivers are being destroyed by influential people for personal gain. The river protection commission has made a list of them. Immediate steps must be taken to protect the rivers.