The government had lodged 1,803 cases against encroachers of water bodies. (Picture for representation)
A recent survey by the Bihar government has shown that 34,559 water bodies and 19,739 roads across the state have been encroached upon for years.
The survey was ordered after the maximum cases registered under the Public Grievances Redressal Act, 2015, were found to be encroachment-related. The government had lodged 1,803 cases against encroachers of water bodies.
The land and revenue department recently asked all divisional commissioners and district magistrates to clear encroachments from water bodies and roads. The government's special drive, though long overdue, was initiated after it launched the Jal Jeevan Hariyali mission in a bid to revive water bodies. Water table in the state has gone down from 10 to 200 feet over the last decade.
A cumulative report district authorities, submitted to the land and revenue department, showed that of 1,48,231 water bodies across the state, 34,559 had been encroached upon.
Bihar land and revenue department additional chief secretary Vivek Kumar Singh told The Indian Express: "We have set up a departmental enquiry to study various kinds of encroachment and take a final call on its ownership. In case of dynamic water bodies emerging from the Himalayas and Chhota Nagpur region, rivers meander and change course over the years and people are found to settle along them. We call it topo land. Hundreds of permanent and temporary encroachments have come up under this category, and we need to have a serious look on its ownership".
Singh said another category of encroachment had taken place on static water bodies under forest, minor irrigation and water resources department. "This category of water bodies has been surveyed and the district administration has been asked to clear encroachment," said Singh, who had written to all DMs in October.
Asked if the government would legitimise encroachment over dynamic water bodies, especially perennial and seasonal rivers, Singh said: "The department committee will identify encroachments that have to be cleared. Legal opinion will be also taken."