THAT river erosion leaves around 50,000 people landless every year in the country is indeed a matter of deep concern. Over 5,000 families in Naria, Shariatpur, as New Age reported on Thursday, became homeless in last three months as the Padma devoured a vast area on its right bank. According to Naria upazila nirbahi officer, the Mokterer Char and the Kedarpur unions fully disappeared while the Garishar and the Charatra unions were partially devoured by the erosion besides Ward No 2 and 4 of Naria Municipal town. Local people said that they had seen the mighty Padma devouring more than 300 business offices in the 200-year-old Mulfotganj Bazar, two government primary schools, 10 mosques, several temples, a part of the Naria upazila health complex, a school for children with disabilities and the Naria-Kederpur Road. Notably, in the absence of proper rehabilitation programme on part of the government and because of flawed administrative and economic policies pursued by successive governments, most of the river erosion victims have reportedly had to migrate to different cities, especially the capital and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, to lead a subhuman life. Moreover, such a massive migration of people to the cities has left extra pressure on the latter which have already been beset with thousands of problems including inadequate civic amenities. River erosion also destroys thousands of hectares of farm land every year posing a threat to the country’s national food security.
No doubt, as Bangladesh is a living delta that came into being because of huge silt carried every year by the major rivers crisscrossing the land, the country cannot get rid of river erosion altogether. Besides, the much-talked-about climate change, which has mostly been caused by factors across the country’s boundaries, continues to contribute to the problem. But one cannot deny that proper management of the rivers, coupled with necessary measures to address climate change impacts on humans and ecology, can mitigate the problem to a large extent. What is most unfortunate is that successive governments have so far undertaken various projects spending thousands of crores of takas, collected from different international lending agencies, including the World Bank, as loans on conditions that are predominantly detrimental to national interest, in the name of preventing river erosion and flood control; but which in reality has helped the people of those lending agencies in making quick money. These projects have not only failed to produce the expected results but also have worsened the situation further. There are reasons to suggest that the government needs to be careful in implementing the Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Programme in the districts of Sirajganj, Tangail and Manikganj to protect life and livelihoods of the people living along rivers.
The government needs to realise that its failure to take effective steps to address the problem lends credence to the allegation that like its predecessors, it is also indifferent to the victims mostly belonging to the poor and marginalised groups. Rights bodies concerned also need to raise sustained voice over the issue.
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