Only a third of the people displaced by river erosion in the country every year are rehabilitated amid a call for expansion of the government’s programme to rehabilitate landless people.
Over the last 23 years, since the government launched its Char Development and Settlement Project in 1994, about 30,000 families have been rehabilitated in newly accreted lands, known as chars, along the south-eastern coast, project officials have said.
The government estimate shows that the CDSP project could rehabilitate a little over 1,304 families a year on an average whereas the number of families losing their lands in river erosions in the estuaries every year stands at 4,500.
‘There is a huge demand from landless families from the coast that the scope of the CDSP project be expanded to accommodate more people in the newly accreted land,’ said Rezaul Karim, land settlement adviser to the project.
Funded jointly by the government of Bangladesh, the Netherlands and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the CDSP project aims at developing infrastructures in chars and improving economic situation there.
According to the Water Development Board, Bangladesh accretes 20 square kilometre of land every year due to sedimentation, with the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river system carrying the highest load of sediment in the world.
The WDB estimates that the system carries 1.1 billion tonnes of sediment every year leading to formation of chars.
Seventy-year-old Ahsan Ullah came to live in one of such chars called Char Bayezid in Noakhali in 2001 after losing his ancestral home at Tamaruddi in Hatiya to river erosion.
Ahsan had to pay to one of the robbers’ gangs that controlled the char at that time to allow him and his wife Nahida Khatun to live there.
Like them had come to the char over a hundred landless families looking for a place to live.
The families have lived in hardship for almost about a decade as their male members stayed away from home to avoid being forced to join the gangs.
‘The char was a deep forest at that time and the women started clearing it,’ said Ahsan’s wife Nahida.
‘We cultivated this land bit by bit,’ she added.
Nahida is one of the 100 women who on October 18 received between 1.2 acres and 1.5 acres of land on lease from the government after almost 17 years of struggle.
They are the latest batch of the 30,000 people who have against their names allotted about 43,000 hectares of land in different chars for a period of 99 years under the CDSP project.
The land titling documents always contain two names — husband’s name always following the name of his wife.
‘It is women who have made these chars liveable,’ said Ahsan Ullah.
Water resources minister Anisul Islam Mahmud earlier said that between 30 to 40 per cent of the total homeless population were river erosion victims.
He said that the number river erosion victims would be about 50,000 a year, many of them moving to the city in search of livelihoods.
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