The High Court (HC) on Sunday asked government authorities to submit a complete list of all rivers in the country by 5 June next year.
It also asked the government to prepare a detailed work plan to demarcate the boundary of rivers and free rivers from encroachment within this period.
On a public interest writ petition of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers' Association, a bench of Justice Md Mojibur Rahman Mia and Justice Md Kamrul Hossain Mollah gave the order and issued a rule.
The Finance Ministry, the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC), and all divisional commissioners were asked to comply with the order.
In the rule, the HC asked the government to explain why its failure to comply with HC's 2009 order that directed the demarcation of all rivers, save them from encroachments, evict all encroachers, and to install proper demarcation pillars for the Turag River, should not be declared unconstitutional.
It also asked the authorities concerned to explain why directives were not issued to demarcate and map all the country's rivers on the basis of both CS and RS records, and to install demarcation markers, including signs, symbols, and trees planted on the river banks to protect rivers from encroachers.
According to the writ petition, various river custodians of the government have different and differing data regarding the number of rivers in the country, so a full and comprehensive list is needed to protect them from encroachers.
Bangladesh River Conservation Commission data says there are more than 770 rivers in the country, but as per the shipping ministry, the number of rivers is 496.
According to a publication of the Water Development Board, there are more than 405 rivers in the country, while researcher M Inamul Haque has prepared a list of 1182 rivers.
As the number of rivers was not determined accurately, it is difficult to identify encroachers and encroachment properly.
As per the River Conservation Commission, the number of river encroachers is 57,390 but recently the state minister for the shipping ministry told parliament that there are 65,127 river encroachers across the country.
BELA's chief executive, Advocate Syeda Rizwana Hasan, moved for the petition at the court.