THE victims of river erosion are continuing to live in a destitute condition. Despite many promises from the government, only a third of the people displaced by river erosion are rehabilitated. After the launch of Char Development and Settlement Project in 1994, as New Age reported on Tuesday, only 30,000 families have been rehabilitated in newly accreted char lands along the south eastern coast. These river erosion victims consists almost 30 to 40 per cent of the total homeless population whereas the number of river erosion victims is about 50,000 a year. According to the government estimate, almost 4,500 families lose their lands to river erosion annually, whereas the CDSP project of the government could only rehabilitate about 1,304 families. The discrepancy between the number of people displaced and number of people rehabilitated shows governments’ stark apathy for the victims of river erosion. The displaced people from the coast are repeatedly demanding to expand the scope of CDSP project to accommodate more people in the newly accreted land. However, the government has remained largely inactive to address the need of the majority of homeless people in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh accretes 20 square kilometre of char land every year due to sedimentation in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river system. However, there has been no efficient and long term plan in place to make proper use of this newly accreted land. The handfuls of families who are fortunate enough to be rehabilitated are faced with many problems in the accreted char lands. Since the communities living in this char lands are disconnected from the main land, they do not enjoy the services offered by law enforcing agencies equally; they have to live by the terms of robbers’ gang who control the char lands. With alleged support from the local influential groups and corrupt administration, many robbers’ gangs functionally control the charlands. Despite being rehabilitated by the government, they have to pay the gang to secure their stay, otherwise they are forcibly evicted. It is also very common that male members of those families have to stay away from home to avoid being forced to join the gangs. Education and health facilities are also scanty in most of these chars. Although it is actually the women who made those char lands liveable by clearing deep bushes and cultivating those, there is a serious lack in social safety net programme for them. It is evident from the above scenario that the government has failed to ensure the basic rights of people who are displaced by river erosion.
Therefore, the government must review the efficacy of CDSP project to include and address the real demands of the victims of river erosion. Considering the suffering of this particular homeless community, it should also draft a long term plan for proper use of accreted land. In addition, the government must have a holistic rehabilitation programme that will include social safety net, education and health facilities.
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