"No structure can be set up on land along rivers. If anyone tries to harm rivers, we will take strict action," said Dr Muzibur Rahman Howlader, chairperson of National River Conservation Commission (NRCC), while visiting Dhaleshwari River in Savar today.
On Shahid Rafiq Uddin Bridge, he said, "You can build bridges, that is fine, but you must ensure the river's safety. We would recommend reconstructing the [Shahid Rafiq Uddin] bridge to make it bigger, to save Dhaleshwari River."
"Huge amount of sediment is collecting on both sides of the riverbank, as roads were constructed occupying land on both sides to connect with the bridge. Unscrupulous people are also taking the chance to grab land there," he further said.
"Such practices are criminal offences, and it doesn't matter if you're a government officer. Nobody has the right to harm rivers," he added.
The NRCC chairperson also said they want industries and development, and there is no conflict there between development and conserving rivers. Authorities must do everything it takes to ensure that rivers flow in the right condition.
Classification of land along rivers cannot be changed; such land is non-transferable and cannot be occupied. None can use such land for business, or setting up houses and any other structures, he added.
When asked about groups grabbing the Bangshi riverbank in Savar's Namabazar and Nayarhat area, Dr Muzibur replied that they are aware. They will visit the spot soon and take proper initiative to free the land.
Syed Abul Maksud, vice-president of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, said, "We noticed that politically influential people usually these land by misusing their power in most cases."
"Every law of our country…is in favour of saving rivers. So, we urge the government to support our administration for evicting land grabbers," he said. "We want industries and development, but that does not mean rivers should be damaged. We want proper implementation of our laws."
Shahina Akthar, assistant district commissioner (revenue) of Manikganj; Runa Laila, upazila nirbahi officer of Singair upazila; Meher Nigar Sultana, assistant commissioner (land) of Singair; NRCC officials, local administration of Manikganj, among others, were present during the visit.
According to the Singair local administration, around 200 acres of land along Dhaleshwari River were grabbed at different times and are still occupied.