Erosion wipes four villages off north

Emran Hossain with Rezaul Karim Manik in Lalmonirhat | Published: 00:53, Jul 08,2020


A bridge on a village road and the surrounding areas are still under flood water in Islampur of Jamalpur on Monday. — Sourav Lasker

Erosion has wiped four villages off the map of northern Bangladesh as five flood-affected northern districts continued to lose land to rivers that are now receding after flowing above their danger marks for 10 days, said the Water Development Board.

At least 37 families became homeless in Chilmari of Kurigram alone after the River Brahmaputra devoured their homes between Monday and Tuesday, the WDB said.

All major northern region rivers fell below their danger levels first time since June 27 but were still on the brink of spilling their banks again because of continued heavy rains upstream.

Of the major northern rivers, the Teesta wreaked untold havoc, swallowing four villages completely and vast croplands as India frequently opened and closed the Gazaldoba Barrage, causing the river to overflow overnight and then fell rapidly.

‘We lost four villages. They have been wiped off the map,’ Jyoti Prosad Ghosh, northern region chief of the WDB, told New Age.

At least 2,163 families had to take shelter on the embankment or wewre forced to take shelter at their relatives or relocate their belongings to some other places as the villages disappeared, the WDB estimates show.

The lost villages are Dakkhin Balapara of Mohishkhocha union in Aditmari Upazila of Lalmonirhat, Gobra of Saula union in Pirgacha upazila of Rangpur, Char Bidyananda of Bidyananda union in Rajarhat upaazila of Kurigram and Horkhari village of Belka union in Sundarganj upazila of Gaibandha.

Mohobor, 65, a resident of Dakkhin Balapara, has now become homeless after the Teesta devoured his village entirely in late June, displacing 600 families.

He rebuilt his home 18 times in the last two decades before he finally saw the last remaining 3-kilometer area of his village disappear after the flood hit this year.

‘I would be better off dead,’ said Mohobor, who is staying at a tent made of polythene on the embankment.

Thousands get displaced in Bangladesh every year because of erosion, mostly during monsoon floods.

Low-lying areas of northern region, where major cross-border rivers enter Bangladesh, are especially susceptible to erosion.

The victims of erosion represent the poorest segment of the country’s population, for whom options are only few when they are forced to relocate houses to new places.

Erosion displaced Anil Chandra, 33, who used to be a resident of Char Bidyananda, of his house, 3 bighas of cropland and livelihood. He used to be a grocer and his business disappeared with is village.

‘I have become a beggar,’ said Anil, who is living at a relative’s house.

Azgar Ali, 46, who used to teach at a school before the Teesta devoured it along with his village Gobra, does not know where his students have gone or whether he would teach again.

‘The sad thing is that the authorities did nothing to save the village,’ said Abul Kalam Azad, chairman, Saula union parishad.

Water management experts said that the Teesta causes severe erosion because it does not have an established channel to flow and courses unpredictably if water flow increases from upstream.

The Teesta remains dry for four months because of India withdrawing all waters but becomes a deluge during monsoon with India releasing huge amount of excessive waters without warning.

‘A river is considered dead if it does not retain a fourth of its flow round the year. A dead river could behave dangerously with huge water loads,’ said AKM Saiful Islam, who teaches at Institute of Water and Flood Management, BUET.

Tuhin Wadud, director, Riverine People, a voluntary research organisation specialising in northern rivers, said that people suffered a lot because of the absence of an agreement between Bangladesh and India to manage the Teesta river water.

‘India claims it to be a friend of Bangladesh but keeps hurting its people the worst possible way,’ said Tuhin.

Erosion caused by the Dharla also devoured 251 houses in eight unions in Kurigram and Lalmonirhat since the start of the flood.

Chilmari upazila nirbahi officer AWM Raihan Shah said that the Brahmaputra eroded 37 houses in his area between Monday and Tuesday.

A Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre bulleting said that six rivers were still flowing above their danger marks at eight points.

It predicted that the Jamuna, Padma and Meghna may continue receding until Thursday.

The flood situation at Sirajganj, Rajbari, Dhaka, Faridpur, Munshiganj and Shariatpur may improve to some extent by Tuesday, said the bulletin. The flood situation at Natore and Naogaon would remain unchanged, it said. 

The FFWC officials said that the fall in the rivers’ water levels would be temporary for they see a high probability of them causing floods again in two days.

Bangladesh Meteorological Department predicted light to moderate rains at most places over Rangpur, Khulna, Barishal, Chattogram and Sylhet divisions until Tuesday morning.

BMD predicted continued moist air to be blown over Bangladesh from the Bay of Bengal, where the rough sea forced the authority to retain signal number three for fishing trawlers and boats travelling to the North Bay.

India Meteorological Department predicted widespread heavy rains in north-eastern states sub-Himalayan west Bengal and Sikkim, Bihar and East Uttar Pradesh from Wednesday onwards.

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email