It is heart-breaking to learn of yet another important waterbody—a stream, Bandarban’s Myaksi Chhara—being shrunk to a fraction of its original size because of the greed of land grabbers. From a 40 feet-wide stream, Myaksi Chhara is now about to die with a width of only 5 feet. According to sources in the district administration, members of the political elite have been indiscriminately grabbing land on the banks of the stream and have built multi-storied commercial buildings. Large areas of land near the stream have been leased out to ruling party members who have built permanent structures on the banks. The results are predictable: change in course of the stream resulting in blockage of the flow and flooding in the town during monsoons.
It is appalling that protecting the environment of a district as rare (in terms of forest area) as Bandarban is not a priority of the district administration which leased out the land to influential people in violation of existing laws. Did the administration not know what the effect of building structures right on the banks and filling up parts of the canal would have on this precious stream? It is also puzzling why the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) would not include the names of these influential people the local people have identified as encroachers, in the list of water body grabbers they have published.
In January this year, the High Court accorded “living status” to all rivers of the country delineating the importance of these water bodies. The HC also emphasised the role of the State in protecting all rivers, mountains, forests, lakes, ponds and other receptacles of water in the country. The NRCC was declared as the legal guardian of all the rivers of the country.
Despite such directives it is tragic that Myaksi Chhara is about to face the same fate as so many hundreds of streams, canals, lakes and rivers. The government has expressed its commitment to protecting these lifelines of the country. Now it must free them from the greed of individuals who have abused their official power and caused irreparable damage to our water bodies.