‘Dredging for nothing’
The Water Development Board has restarted dredging the Ichhamati river in Pabna, following a six-month halt.
However, following legal complexity, an eviction drive against illegal structures on both sides of the river is yet to begin, something that's necessary for the dredging project to work, according to experts.
Originating from Padma, an 8km section of the 84km Ichhamati flows through Pabna's middle part. But over the years, it has turned into a narrow channel after losing its water flow, as well as navigability, due to siltation and encroachment.
"Only during flood does the water of the river flow in Banglabazar Launch Ghat area and Shibrampur point. For the rest of the year, it remains dry," said Abdul Hamid Khan, a green activist.
Md Rafikul Islam, executive engineer of WDB in Pabna, said they've already completed dredging a 2.67km area at the confluence of the river from the sluice gate of the flood protection embankment in Shibrampur. "We have already submitted a mega project of Tk 1,200 crore under which three more of the river's channels will be dredged," he said.
Meanwhile, a project to dredge 5.67km of Ichhamati and another 2.67km at its confluence at a cost of Tk 5.46 crore, as well as another project worth Tk 2.69 crore to free the river from encroachment has resumed on March 15 last year, said WDB officials.
Encroachers, however, filed seven petitions with the High Court, claiming ownership of land, halting the projects. After this, the dredging project resumed for a 1km area on January 17.
"WDB has already identified over 1,100 illegal structures on the river's banks, but legal complexity arose after only 100 structures were removed from the 1km area," said Md Mosharaf Hossain, assistant director (land and revenue) of WDB.
"Before getting court approval, we can't resume the eviction drive and dredging," he said.
Meanwhile, SM Mahabub Alom, president of Ichhamati Protection Movement, said, "If the illegal structures are not removed from the both sides of the river, the dredging will be meaningless."
"Additionally, the dredged soil piled beside the river will enter the river again if it rains," Mahabub added.
WDB Engineer Rafikul said the dredged soil will be removed from the bank after it dries.