No land will be leased for anything other than agricultural and fish production, Colonel (retd) Zaheed Faruk, state minister for Water Resource said on Wednesday.
The State Minister was replying to a question regarding illegal structures on riverbanks across the country, during a keynote address at a roundtable meeting titled, "Nodi Rokkhay Proyojon Sothik Niyome Nodi khanan" organized by Nongor on Wednesday morning.
He said, "An eviction drive has started on riverbanks. It's unfortunate that eviction is not a problem for the poor, but for the rich. They build houses on lease. So, I have stopped offering leases since taking charge."
"I do not lease any land. Leases will not be facilitated other than for agriculture and fish production," he said.
Regarding the issue of river erosion, the Barishal-5 MP said, "I am from an area that is prone to river erosion. I have seen first-hand how much the locals suffer in these areas."
"Under the direction of the Hon'ble Prime Minister, the government is taking on a dredging project to enhance the water holding capacity of rivers by reducing their width."
He suggested that villages should be built on reclaimed land. Also, since population growth is leading to a decrease in cropland, he said that the land should be exclusively used for agricultural purposes. He urged everyone to cooperate in protecting the rivers.
The State Minister said, "I have visited about 300 project areas and told locals everywhere that they should not allow anyone to illegally extract sand. If necessary, ask the administration for help. A letter has been sent from the Ministry to all Deputy Commissioners across the country, with clear instructions to stop illegal sand extraction."
Sumon Shams presided over the event where Dr Mujibur Rahman Hawladar, chairman of the National River Protection Commission; AM Aminul Haque, director general of Water Development Board; Professor Mir Tareq Ali, BUET; and Abdus Salam Sikder, senior morphologist of Institute of Water Modelling (IWM) spoke as special guests on the occasion.