The River and Delta Research Centre (RDRC) has recently conducted research on thousands of river re-demarcation pillars on Turag, Buriganga, Balu and Shitalakhya rivers. After a combined survey and measurement by several ministries, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has been constructing the pillars since 2014. The RDRC research, however, has found that hundreds of these pillars have been installed inside the river, thus, leaving land grabbers a scope to encroach on rivers’ property. The Business Standard has recently reached out to Mohammed Azaz, the chairman of RDRC and Nurul Alam, the project director of BIWTA to learn their respective positions on the research
This research is not accurate: Nurul Alam
BIWTA has been responsible for installing re-demarcation pillars on river boundaries. These boundaries are identified by combined efforts from several ministries. It took years of efforts to formulate such measurements. Following the instruction of those measurements, no pillar has been established inside the river. In contrast to the allegations, all the pillars have been placed in proper places.
The organisation that reported inaccuracies had not been assigned by the government. The case would have been different if the government had assigned the organisation with the task. The government often assigns private organisations depending on their skills. Survey and measurement at this level require necessary skills. We need to ask whether they have the skills at all. In our particular field of work, we all are professional and experienced. For example, I cannot dictate a professional journalist's work simply because I am not a journalist. For the same reason, I do not think the organisation that alleged inaccuracy has that professional experience.
The survey and measurement that the ministries performed were not a result of a day's efforts. It was a detailed work involving many prominent organisations, whereas the organisation who came up with the allegations did it so superficially.
BIWTA has been responsible for the construction of the pillars as per the government measurement. We did not move an inch from what the measurement dictated us to do. So, the RDRC report is not accurate.
While constructing the pillars, we have maintained highest accuracy considering longitude and latitude. There is no scope of error. But if someone photographs a random pillar under water and alleges that this one is located inside the river – that fails to make any sense. Because the seasonal differences can make the understanding of the demarcation line very complicated.
If you visit Savar, Ashulia or Tongi, you will find fields just a few feet from the edge of the river. These fields are personal properties and agricultural land of the local people. If you want to take these lands inside the river, there will not be any agricultural land available. Agricultural lands are often in close proximity of the river – just a few feet near the river.
In fall, these lands are flooded very easily. Consequently, some of the paddy breeds – for example, Aman or even jute – grow in inundated lands. Does this drowning make these lands river's property? Not at all. Again, in fall if the water reaches Savar town, we do not claim this part as the property of the river. It does not work that way.
With full responsibility as the project director, I can say that we ensured the interest of the rivers above everything. The property of the rivers increased, it did not decrease.
Nurul Alam is the Project Director of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA)
They should recheck these pillars: Mohammad Azaz
The port rule-1966 was elaborated in a high court rule of 2009 that instructed to specify the high watermarks, low watermarks and the foreshores. The law is explained in such a way so that anyone – paying a visit to any river – will understand the points.
Based on these points and explanations, we were on the field. In our measurement, we considered the highest level of watermarks during monsoon to be our main criteria. And we put a sincere effort into this survey because we want the issue to be resolved. But the first thing we found was that all the pillars (the 1423 pillars we found) were into the water and we have the photographs of these as proof.
We have a professional team who are up to the mark to conduct such measurements. The team I worked with boasted highly experienced and qualified researchers. I believe the government bodies do not have such expertise.
Our findings say that BIWTA was instructed to set the pillars but it did not follow the port rule-1966 law to set the foreshore map. The fault in the demarcation was noticed by every one of us. The faulty co-ordinations of the pillars were quite visible. The teams which measured the line were obviously to blame.
However, several organisations are directly related to this project: the Water Development Board, DC office, Land Record and Survey Department, etc. With a coordinated effort, they can resolve the issues that we pointed out in our research.
They can maintain transparency based on the observations put forward by us. If they are confident that they are transparent and accountable, why do not they check it again?
We are here to help them. And we want the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) to be a part of it because it was instructed by the high court rule to involve this organisation. We believe that if NRCC is involved, the process will be more accurate and transparent.
We conducted the research as responsible citizens of the country and from our love for the rivers of this land. BIWTA and other government organisations should take it positively and focus on fixing these issues.
At the end of the day, it is the government organisations that would implement the projects. We can only give them information. If they take it, we will be glad to welcome them. And if they do not, we have nothing to do but regret. No government organisation is our opponent. We are just a cooperating organisation. And they would be benefitted from our feedback and cooperation.
Mohammad Azaz is the Chairman of the River and Delta Research Centre (RDRC)