SM Musa Alam, 54, and his family were relocated from Chattogram's Patenga to Laldiar Char in 1972 as the government acquired their land to expand the airport base.
He came to Laldiar Char as a five-year-old child with his parents and 11 siblings. Thousands like them were also relocated to that area.
Now, after 49 years, Musa and his family have to leave Laldiar Char. But this time they do not know where they will go.
Other inhabitants in that area will face the same fate as the Chattogram Port Authority is going to evict around 14,000 people from the char on March 1 in order to construct Laldia Multipurpose Terminal there.
Further, the authorities have no plans to rehabilitate the evicted people.
The Chattogram Port Authority said it will carry out the eviction operation to protect the River Karnafuli under a court order.
A government primary school was established in 1972 in Laldiar Char. Around 330 students study at the school which has six teachers. The teachers and parents of the students are worried about the future of the students after the eviction.
Babli Biswas, headteacher of Laldiar Char Government Primary School, said, "Where will these students go if the school is closed? I am extremely worried about the future of their academic life."
Local people said no land was registered in their name after they were shifted to Laldiar Char in 1972. After 1975, the land in Laldiar Char was recorded in the BS survey as belonging to the Chattogram Port Authority. Since then, the residents of Laldiar Char have been identified as illegal occupants of the land. The port authority said that this land was acquired in 1935 in the name of the Chattogram Port.
Zillur Rahman, deputy manager (land) of the Chattogram Port Authority, said, "Illegal settlements were set up on the land owned by the Chattogram Port in Laldiar Char. The eviction drive will be conducted there as per the directions of the High Court."
Several officials of Chattogram Port have said that the port authority is not responsible for the rehabilitation of the people living in Laldiar Char.
Alamgir Hasan, president of the Laldiar Char Protection Committee, told The Business Standard, "The people living here had left their land in 1972 on the government's decision for the expansion of the airport base. Being a war-torn country, they left their resources at the call of the government without any exchange. In return, the government allotted 124 acres of land to 400 families."
"However, today these residents are being evicted as illegal occupants. About 14,000 people from 2,300 families are living in inhumane conditions due to the disconnection of their electricity and water," he added.
Chittagong Port Authority Assistant Manager (land) Muhammad Shihab Uddin said, "200 policemen and four Rapid Action Battalion [RAB] platoons will take part in the eviction drive led by five magistrates. They will vacate 57 acres of land. The concerned department has already cut off the power supply and water supply in Laldiar Char area. Earlier, on 22 and 23 July, 2019, the port authorities vacated 15 acres of land in the same area."
Meanwhile, the locals held a human chain programme in front of Chattogram Boat Club in Patenga on Saturday afternoon, 20 February, to protest the decision to evict them without rehabilitation.
Ten years ago, the human rights and environmental organisation Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB) filed a writ petition seeking directions to protect the River Karnafuli. On 8 December 2020, the High Court ordered the eviction drive in Laldiar Char.
The order directed that all the illegal occupants of Laldiar Char be evicted within two months and that a report be submitted to the High Court on 9 March. The institutions concerned were also ordered to disconnect the electricity, gas and water connections.
The Chattogram divisional commissioner, Chattogram deputy commissioner, Chattogram Metropolitan Police, RAB, Chattogram Development Authority, and Chattogram City Corporation Authority were ordered to provide necessary assistance to the Chattogram Port Authority in the eviction process. In view of this, the Chattogram Port Authority issued a public notification on 18 February.
Khorshed Alam Sujan, co-president of the Chattogram Metropolitan Awami League and former administrator of the Chattogram City Corporation, said, "The residents of Laldiar Char need to be rehabilitated before they are evicted. It would be inhumane to evict them forcefully without rehabilitation."
However, despite the decision to launch an eviction drive in Laldiar Char, no action has been taken against around 1,900 establishments of some influential people from the banks of the River Karnafuli.
Aliur Rahman, general secretary of the Chattogram River and Canal Protection Movement, said, "The Chattogram Port Authority is evicting the inhabitants of illegal establishments in Laldiar Char. But the Chattogram district administration is taking no steps against seven cold storage facilities and 1,900 establishments built on the banks of the river by influential people – from Firingibazar to Baklia Char."