Almost 90% of river encroachment space has been freed by the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), claimed State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury.
"Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina always talks about river protection, which shows how conscious the government is about protecting rivers. She has encouraged us. So far, the BIWTA has cleared 90% of the river area grabbed illegally," the state minister said as chief guest at a discussion meeting on "Rights of Rivers", organised by the National River Protection Commission to mark World River Day at Cirdap Auditorium in Dhaka on Sunday.
"Bangabandhu also talked about wetlands and rivers. He procured many dredgers for BIWTA to protect the navigability of the river. Although they are still operational, if Bangabandhu's steps to protect the river had been followed properly, Bangladesh would not have to talk about the navigability and pollution of the river today," he added.
"However, continuous efforts to protect the river have often been disrupted. While the country is engaged in development, a group is engaged in ugly politics over rivers and the environment. But we are determined to move the country forward. Some people have stepped up in the name of the environment to slow down and drag down the development of Chattogram and Matarbari ports. We have to be careful about them," said Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury.
Regarding the challenges faced in saving rivers, the state minister said, "We are making due efforts to free up the river but there have been several obstacles to river protection and rescue operations. Educational institutions, mosques, and other religious institutions have been established on the banks of the river and we have spoken to various religious leaders including the ministry. We have been assured of help in this regard."
Ainun Nishat was the main speaker and United Nations Resident Representative Gwyn Lewis spoke as special guest at the discussion meeting.
The programme was conducted by Zillur Rahman, executive director of the Centre for Governance Studies, with Manzoor Ahmed Chowdhury, chairman of the National River Protection Commission, in the chair.