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Unified steps await rivers: JS passes bill to form river commission

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Staff Correspondent


Water Development Board is building an embankment with concrete slabs on the shore of the Shitalakkhya, further raising questions about the highly controversial demarcation of rivers around Dhaka. Yet sand traders continue to illegally occupy a large section of the river. Photo: Star


The Jatiya Sangsad yesterday passed a bill for the formation of a national river commission, which will make necessary recommendations for the government to save rivers and water bodies from grabbers and polluters. The National River Protection Commission will also place its recommendations before the government for effective coordination among ministries and divisions involved in river and water management.

The government has already involved 14 authorities and agencies in river management in different aspects. These bodies, seriously lacking coordination, have even failed to agree on the number of rivers crisscrossing the country. Experts and environmentalists, however, cast doubts on the effectiveness of the commission as it will have no executive power to implement its recommendations.

Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan, who proposed passage of the bill, said once formed, the commission would be able to play an effective role in freeing the rivers from grabbers and polluters. The commission will be formed as soon as possible comprising a chairman and a maximum of four members.

The chairman and members must be nationally and globally recognised river and water experts and environmentalists and experts in river engineering and hydrology. Rights or environment activists might also be in the commission. They will be appointed for a three-year term. The government moved to form the river commission in the wake of a widespread campaign launched by different environment organisations and media against river grab bing and pollution.

Even the High Court on July 19, 2009 ordered forming a commission, which would be the highest authority in protecting the rivers. The government on several occasions pledged to stop river grabbing and pollution, but the reality remained almost the same with the situation worsening in some cases.

Against this backdrop, the cabinet on January 7 this year approved the proposal for enacting the law for the formation of the National River Protection Commission. The shipping minister placed the bill in parliament on June 6. After the cabinet’s nod, green activists, who have long been pressing for a single river authority, said merely another body for recommendations would not do any good.

They expressed their doubts over the effectiveness of the commission, which will have no executive authority to implement its recommendations. According to the Bangladesh Water Development Board, the number of the country’s rivers is 259, while a publication of the Bangladesh River Institute puts it at 312. According to the 2010 chart of the Bangladesh Centre for Environment and Geographic Information System, there are 405 rivers in the country.

Water Resources Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen told the House last year that at least 97 rivers were dying due to lack of water flow during the dry season. The House also passed another bill making provisions for setting up a road maintenance fund board with the aim of carrying out better repairing and maintenance of roads under the Roads and Highways Department.

Cultural Affairs Minister Abul Kalam Azad has, meanwhile, placed a bill in parliament seeking to enact a new law on the functions of the Bangla Academy through scrapping the existing one enacted in 1978.



Source: thedailystar





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