An unremitting drive to free the river banks of grabbers is underway across the country. Demolition of illegal structures and eviction go on. Given the brisk pace at which this is enforced, an upbeat mood begins to emerge. The affected people this time foresee a result leaving positive impact -- which could be far-reaching, too. Two government entities are involved with the mega operation - the Water Development Board (WDB) and the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA). The drives are being conducted in collaboration with the relevant district administrations. The freeing of rivers from encroachment constitutes mainly demolition of illegal concrete structures and makeshift establishments on the banks. A number of grabbers have extended their 'possession' deep into the mid-rivers.
Civil society platforms campaigning for saving rivers watch the anti-river encroachment operation with anticipation; and wait for a lasting remedy. Their cautionary words about the feared damages to the rivers had fallen on deaf ears earlier on. In the last four decades, dozens of the country's rivers out of around 750 have turned into shadows of their former selves. A similar fate met the country's once navigable canals. In fact, normal life in many of river-dominant regions ground to a standstill. The authorities were fully aware of the stark reality. Ironically, except for pompous announcements to recover the grabbed lands, few effective measures were in place to reclaim the natural wealth.
Thus, there is a compelling backdrop to the river-saving campaign. This is all the more reinforced by the fact that illegally occupied large portions of many rivers have consigned agriculture and fisheries in certain areas to their death throes. Due to the rivers' constriction, the monsoon flooding of their banks becomes a yearly feature. For many towns and cities with their rivers falling into the hands of hardened grabbers, pollution of varying kinds visits the surroundings with dreadful regularity. It's heartening to note, however, that the present eviction drive has begun with an unsparing tempo. In the past, an impunity culture would be given unwanted traction. However, the present edition of the demolition drives appears to be free of any lackadaisical, perfunctory approach.
Who can deny that rivers have for ages been life-saving arteries for Bangladesh? Choking these blood vessels was, naturally, repugnant to the sensibilities and more importantly, to the self-preservation instinct of this country's people. But greed of the river-grabbing syndicates has not spared even such life-lines. Shame on them! The nation can ill afford to turn a blind eye to the nefarious expropriation of this country's vital natural wealth. The authorities' oft-repeated resolve to carry forward 'save the river campaign' must out of a sheer practical necessity be underpinned by community participation. Without local oversight and resistance against illegal occupation of rivers, the administration's drive can't lead to lasting results. This does not however preclude their current responsibility to hold those found guilty to account. An educative awareness of the people's right to rivers, recognising and rewarding fearless post-drive reporting from the local levels of any errant behaviour with rivers and fail-safe mechanism to foil attempted reoccupation bids are the elements of which a far reaching river saving strategy ought to be made.
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