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Disqualify river grabbers from elections bank loans
Sandlifting from Gumti riverbed in Comilla

Disqualify river grabbers from elections bank loans

Dhaka, Feb 03 – In a landmark verdict, the High Court on Monday disqualified the grabbers of rivers and canals from contesting any election including local government and parliamentary polls. It directed the Election Commission to take steps to this effect.
The HC bench also court also ordered Bangladesh Bank to take steps so that any person accused of grabbing river land cannot get bank loans.
The HC bench also directed the local administrations to publish lists of grabbers of rivers, canals and built illegal constructions in their respective jurisdictions In addition, the court ordered the release of a list of those who have encroached on water bodies.
The HC bench comprising Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Md Ashraful Kamal gave the verdict after disposing of a public interest litigation writ petition of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB).
In its verdict, the HC bench also declared Dhaka’s Turag River a ‘legal person’ in an effort to conserve rivers, streams and other water bodies.
It also announced the formation of a national river conservation commission to serve as their ‘legal guardians’.
The HC bench also directed the government to amend the National River Protection Act 2013 within six months empowering it to investigate allegations of grabbing rivers and canals and penalise them.
It also instructed the government to amend existing laws and assign ‘harsh punishments’ to offenders so that the National River Protection Commission can play a significant role in protecting water bodies.
It directed the government for the formation of a digital database of the country’s water bodies through satellites and regular awareness raising programmes at all educational institutions and factories in the country.
The HC bench also asked the education ministry to take steps so that an hour-long class is taken each a week in two months at all government and private academic institutions including schools, college, universities and madrasahs each a week in two months for building awareness over the rivers.
The court asked the industries ministry to take a step so that meetings are held for one hour a day in two months each for building consciousness for protecting the river among the labourers of the mills and factories across the country.
“Turag River is a legal and juristic person and a living entity. The authorities concerned have been asked to remove all structures from it in the next 30 days,” the HC verdict said.
The HC bench directed the government to conduct evictions of the illegal structures, with the defendants paying the cost if they fail to remove them within the deadline.
If any defendants have built on land leased from the government, the agreement will be scrapped.
The Turag River petition will be considered an ongoing case despite the High Court announcing the verdict so that the implementation of the court’s orders can be monitored.
The HC bench also ordered a copy of the verdict to be sent to the prime minister to allow her to take necessary measures against the illegal encroachers.
A World Bank study said four major rivers around Dhaka — the Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag and Balu — receive 1.5 million cubic metres of wastewater every day from 7,000 industrial units in surrounding areas and another 0.5 million cubic metres from other sources.
The Environment and Forest Ministry enacted a law in 1995 making it mandatory for all industrial units to use effluent treatment plants (ETPs) to save river waters from pollution, but owners often flout the rule.
Advocate Manzill Murshid represented the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, Deputy Attorney General Ekramul Hoque, Assistant Attorney General Purobi Rani Sharma and Purobi Saha were the state counsels. – Staff Reporter