A discussion meeting: Disastrous Condition of Old Buriganga due to Reckless Encroachment and its Future

A discussion meeting on ‘’Disastrous condition of Old Buriganga due to reckless encroachment and its Future’’ was held on April 9, 2016, jointly organized by Buriganga Riverkeeper and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) at the Conference Hall of National Press Club at 10:30 am.

Sultana Kamal, the Vice president of BAPA presided over the meeting while Sharif Jamil, Buriganga Riverkeeper and Joint Secretary of BAPA was the keynote speaker and Rokibul Islam, the Additional Chief Engineer of BIWTA presented the proposed project plan to restore the 2nd Channel of the river Buriganga. The Honorable Minister for the Ministry of Shipping Mr. Shajahan Khan MP was present as the Chief Guest on the occasion and Sayed Abul Maksud, prominent Columnist; Mubassher Hossain, Architect and former President of Institute of Architects Bangladesh; Sayeda Rizwana Hassan, Chief Executive, BELA and Akter Mahmud, General Secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners spoke in the discussion meeting.

Photo-2The discussion meeting was the continuation of the Buriganga Riverkeeper program activities to address the encroachment problem of the River Buriganga. In 2012, Buriganga Riverkeeper (BRK) and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) jointly organized a program, where the organizers explained the encroachment activities of Old Buriganga (also known as the 2nd Channel of Buriganga) and its disastrous condition to the audience. In that program, the organizers revealed the encroachment activities by government organizations, industrial companies, commercial agencies and local people. The 2nd Channel is basically the old Buriganga River. That is actually the river we know from the Dhaleshwari River. That source face is brutally encroached at the neck of the river and lost its flow. So it created Kamrangir Chor and started getting less water after the confluence of Turag River.  Currently the River Buriganga is basically getting water only from Turag.  The city part from Bosila to Lalbag Lohar Pool of Old Buriganga started to be called Morakhari or the 2nd Channel of Buriganga. Buriganga Riverkeeper and BAPA first exposed the reckless encroachment of the 2nd Channel of Buriganga. They placed that issue to the National Taskforce for River and in response Taskforce formed a committee headed by the Chairman of BIWTA to recover the 2nd channel of the river Buriganga. The organizers initiated another program in 2014 on the same issue. Finally in 2016, the organizers arranged a press conference where they revealed the present status of River Buriganga from its source-face River Dhaleswari. The encroachment and filling of the 2nd Channel and the source face was exposed in that press conference. The organizers demanded immediate action from the responsible authorities to save river from encroachments.

Recently, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) proposed a restoration project for the 2nd channel of Buriganga River that would cost about BDT 1500 crore. It raised immense interest over the civil society activists who have been working on the Old Buriganga.

Photo-3The Chairperson of the discussion meeting Sultana Kamal said, “We want the river Buriganga back as it was naturally. We do not want any fragmentation of it. She said, the people or group involved in encroachment must be brought under trial“. As the Chief Guest, Shajahan Khan M.P., also the Chairman of the National Taskforce for the Rivers of Bangladesh said, “the government is sincere to save Buriganga. Not only for Buriganga, but also for the other rivers in Bangladesh it is working sincerely. We are fighting together to protect our environment and we will take action against the people or groups who were damaging our environment’’. He also mentioned the initiatives of the government to save Buriganga from the pollution of tannery. He added that the government is working to solve the faulty demarcation pillar issue for the rivers around Dhaka.

Sayed Abul Maksud said, people from different sectors or groups were involved in encroachment. He wanted a well-defined declaration from the government to save river from encroachment.

Architect Mubassher Hossain said, rivers are the gifts from the nature, but a group of people is destroying these rivers. He demanded strict action from the government to punish those people.

Sayeda Rizwana Hasan said, the negligence of responsible authorities is behind of this disastrous situation of River Buriganga, government officials who are helping the land grabbers should be punished.

Rokibul Islam, the Additional Chief Engineer, BIWTA presented the proposed project plan to restore the River Buriganga 2nd Channel. He said, the government had already initiated a project plan to save Buriganga. But before starting the implementation of the project, the government would invite all to be consulted with.

Akter Mahmud said,”for a sustainable development, we have to focus on river protection as protection of life and civilization’’.