One particular job that the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) is now doing is that it is evicting the grabbers from lands that belong to Buriganga, Turag and Shitalakhya and Meghna rivers.
The BIWTA appears determined to accomplish its mission this time. The corporation has already dismantled scores of structures built illegally along these rivers and knocked down a number of dredgers that were being used to fill the rivers in question with sand.
BIWTA officials deputed to oversee the eviction drive were seen fearlessly carrying out their job ignoring threat, allurement and also pressure from powerful quarters in some cases.
Millions watched recently on television how an influential lawyer representing the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) in a high-profile graft case was trying in vain to convince the on-duty BWITA officials not to dismantle a four-storey residential building belonging to one of his close relatives. The building was built illegally on the bank of the Buriganga River. But the latter were found undaunted as they used the excavator to tore the building into pieces.
The BIWTA is reportedly set to acquire some more excavators by December next for strengthening its eviction drive.
What the BIWTA has been doing in recent months could not be conceived of even a couple of years back. Media, both print and electronics, like the rights activists and environmentalists, have been very vocal against encroachment on river banks. The media ran scores of stories and published photographs about how the river banks are being grabbed by some influential people. But the relevant authorities until recently were hardly bothered by all those media campaign.
It is a welcome sign that an organisation like the BIWTA could gather enough courage to ignore the influence peddlers. However, in Bangladesh conditions such a development does not happen without any reason. Someone or some quarters more powerful must be backing the eviction drive.
However, all the good things that the BIWTA has done so far would carry no meaning if those are not followed up by right kind of actions. What is now necessary is ensuring that river banks recovered from the grabbers do not return to their old state due to the BIWTA's indifference. Usually, that is what happens in the case of similar drives conducted by some other government entities.
Take the case of the banks of Buriganga River. It is important that the BIWTA develop the recovered land properly. The government should construct beautiful walkways along with four-lane roads along both the banks of the river. However, none would use such walkways unless the water quality of the river is improved. The stench that the river now emits would force people to stay away from using the walkways, no matter how beautifully they are constructed.
The BIWTA must have something in its mind in the matter of making the Buriganga River bank beautiful and attractive. It should not make any delay in getting the plan executed and the relevant government authorities should also extend all sorts of help to it in this connection.
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