The government on Monday launched an extensive eviction programme across Bangladesh to free small rivers, canals and other water bodies from illegal occupation.
Around 44,000 illegal structures will be demolished during the drive which began in all 64 districts at the same time.
In Dhaka, the authorities started a drive on the bank of the Ramchandrapur canal in Mohammadpur.
Kabir Bin Anwar, secretary to the water resources ministry, inaugurated the drive around 12 pm.
The Ministry of Water Resources will supervise the drive under the first phase of the re-excavation project of small rivers, canals and water bodies in 64 districts of the country.
"It is not an easy task to clear 44,000 illegal structures, but we will not stop till the job is done. We are ready to go into a legal battle if necessary. The entire drive has started as part of the prime minister's delta plan," said Kabir.
The Ramchandrapur canal originates from the Turag River, but some vested groups have occupied the canal for a long time, he added.
The water resources secretary also said that after a year-long effort, all the district administrators have made the list of illegal structures as per the Bangladesh Water Act 2013.
Encroachers would return to grab the water body just after a drive ended, Kabir said, adding, "To stop re-encroachment, we have a plan to plant trees and build walkways along the canal."
On the opening day, the Dhaka district administration evicted at least 70 illegal structures erected along a stretch of 3.1 kilometres of the canal.
Similarly, all the district administrations and local offices of the Water Development Board across the country carried out drives to demolish structures encroaching small rivers, canals and water bodies.
160 illegal structures demolished in Barishal
During drives in six districts under the Barishal division, the Water Development Board bulldozed illegal establishments on both sides of the canal.
Around 160 illegal establishments were pulled down till afternoon. Sub-Divisional Engineer Jabed Iqbal said they identified at least 250 illegal structures in six districts.
In Jhalakathi, 16 illegal structures were demolished from both sides of a canal at Basanda area.
Among the 40 identified structures, Bhola authorities destroyed 37. The water development board officials said it will take two to three more days to demolish the rest.
All illegal structures in Patuakhali Sadar upazila were bulldozed on the first day.
In Pirojpur, 70 out of 109 illegal establishments were pull down from both sides of a canal in the town.
300 structures pulled down in Noakhali
In Noakhali, the district administration and the Water Development Board jointly carried out a drive from the Sadar upazila's Sonapur zero point to Mannan Nagar Chowrasta area.
On the first day, around 300 illegal structures were demolished.
Assistant Commissioner (land) Md Zakaria said a total of 1,500 acres of are illegally occupied at various places in Noakhali.
"About 1,300 illegal establishments were built on this land. We will gradually bulldoze all of those," he added.
284 structures bulldozed in Chuadanga
A total of 284 illegal structures on the embankment of Kumar River in Chudanga's Alamdanga upazila were demolished on the first day of the drive.
Local people said a section of grabbers had occupied the banks of the river for a long time and established business and residential buildings.
As a result, the river has lost its width and navigability.
Executive Magistrate of Chuadanga district Sibir Ahmed said, "We will carry on the drive until the river is completely freed."
Over 100 structures demolished in Sylhet
More than 100 structures were demolished in Jakiganj and Jaintapur upazilas of Sylhet.
The district administration and the Bangladesh Water Development Board jointly launched an operation to pull down illegal structures occupying the banks of Surma River in the district.
Illegal structures along bank of Brahmaputra River bulldozed
The Mymensingh district administration demolished over 300 illegal structures from the banks of the Brahmaputra River.
According to officials of the Bangladesh Water Development Board, there are 926 illegal establishments in the Chaurashvadia area of Brahmaputra river and 189 in the Mymensingh City Corporation area.
The occupants claimed that they were not given time to remove their belongings before the drive started.
Assistant Commissioner (Land) M Sajjadul Hasan said there were about 12,00 illegal establishments from Patgudam area to Kacharighat area in the district. As per the list, all the structures will be removed gradually.
Drive to free Kaptai Lake
The Bangladesh Water Development Board launched a drive around Kaptai Lake in Rangamati district on Monday morning.
The demolition drive was conducted with the help of both the district administration and police.
Authorities demolished four houses which were built illegally in the reserved market area of Kaptai lake.