Eviction and land grabbing continue together
Land Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury Javed warned those unscrupulous people who continue to threat government officials from uprooting illegally built establishments. The minister issued the verbal warning while visiting a river bank spot near the Karnaphuli River. He further added, the eviction procedure will be accelerated. However, land grabbing is not confined surrounding the Karnaphuli River only, rather it is a countrywide phenomenon. Government's relevant authorities have removed numerable illegal structures along roads, highways and rivers in the past but visibly failed to put an end to the manmade menace.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has knocked down 290 illigal structures at Dhaka's Lalbagh area a few days ago. The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) demolished around 1,725 unlawful establishments last month as part of an intensified drive following directive issued by the Road Transport and Bridges Minister. Ironically, 1,497 new illegal foundations had been built during the same month by grabbing 20 acres of RHD land.
Unquestionably, these unauthorised structures along roadsides and near the rivers are one of the main causes for traffic congestion and road accidents. River grabbing also impedes the free flow of water which results in water - logging during the rainy season.
Given the past nature of government's temporary drives against land grabbers, most of the grabbers have become apt in handling the relevant authorities. They have become well aware about the patterns and methods and thus continue to operate under the very nose of the government. The grabbers have also become fearless and clever, in terms of, re-occupying river banks and other land. Government authorities conduct sporadic eviction missions only a few times in a year, that too for a few days. Haphazard monitoring coupled with a few irregular eviction drives here and there are not enough to address the land encroachment issue effectively.
The RHD is lacking in skilled manpower, which is the main setback of continuous and effective drives. The department needs executive magistrates from the deputy commissioner's office and police help for conducting eviction drives. This complexity and lack of coordination takes time which ultimately affects the outcome. As RHD cannot launch frequent drives, despite having no legal barrier to do so, encroachers return within a short time.
Moreover, officials face obstacles due to unwarrented political pressure. The authority cannot continue drives as the occupants get injunction order from courts in many cases. Allegedly, illegal structures are made by bribing the local administrations and political leaders.
Unless the government takes a well coordinated and regular approach to address the issue illegal grabbing of our land and river banks will persist.