The Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) has reclaimed Laldia Char in the River Karnafuli in Patenga area of Chattogram after 24,000 of its residents left the area.
Led by six magistrates, the port authorities started an eviction drive on Monday to vacate the char. At least 557 policemen, 100 Rapid Action Battalion members and about 300 workers took part in the drive.
About 24,000 people of 2,300 families evacuated their homes and left the place voluntarily before the eviction drive began, officials claimed.
"As the inhabitants evacuated their homes before the eviction drive started, the mobile court did not have to use bulldozers or other equipment. Now, we have started erecting barbed wire fences in 52 acres of the area," CPA Secretary Mohammad Omar Farooq told The Business Standard.
The government primary school and mosque at Laldia Char were not instantly demolished.
Meanwhile, CPA chairman Rear Admiral M Shahjahan briefed reporters in the Boat Club area at the beginning of the eviction drive.
CPA owns the place. Earlier, it evicted the inhabitants from 26 acres and today the mobile court is going to reclaim 52 acres of land, he said.
"We encouraged the residents to leave Laldia Char voluntarily. Barbed wire fences are being erected so that no one can re-occupy the area. Ansar members will guard the reclaimed area," the CPA chairman said.
A list has been sent to the Deputy Commissioner for rehabilitation of the evacuated residents of Laldia Char, he added.
In 1972, the then-government relocated several thousand locals of Patenga to Laldia Char to expand Chattogram's airport. At that time, 400 families were allotted 124 acres of land. The place was acquired in 1935 for the Chattogram Port, the CPA said.
Hearing a writ petition filed by the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB) seeking protection of the River Karnafuli, the High Court on 8 December, 2020 ordered the CPA to evict all the occupants of Laldia Char within two months and submit a report to it on 9 March this year.
However, the residents of the char had been protesting for a long time, demanding rehabilitation before they were evicted.
Laldia Char Protection Committee president Alamgir Hasan told TBS, "We expected that the government would rehabilitate us elsewhere before the eviction. But the government did not do so. Therefore, 2,300 families have left their homes at Laldia Char voluntarily, accepting the government decision."
Poor and ultra-poor families have taken shelters at their relatives' homes in different places. Members of 1,500 families are looking for a place to live in the surrounding area, he added.