Stop first sand extraction from riverbeds to check erosion

erosion"We don't want tin (CI sheet) for constructing houses, or food, we want a final solution of river erosion and proper river training. Please don't come to us with relief, save us from erosion," said Adel Mohammad Mamun, a victim of river erosion which has taken serious turn in two unions of Tongibari upazila of the district mainly because of unplanned extraction of sands from the river-bed by a section of unscrupulous traders.

Environmentalists and water experts now agree that because of human intervention fueled by the mindless greed of a handful few, the mighty Padma has already responded quite angrily as the greedy traders continue to extract sands from its river-bed hurting the river morphology.

The river Padma has eaten up 24 villages of Hasail-Banari union out of total 28 and a large portion of Panchgaon union has also been lost in the river creating threat to adjoining areas. During a visit to the villages of the two unions on July 15, people were found making a fervent appeal to the government to take immediate measures to save their lives and properties.

Ousted from their own homesteads the ill-fated people of the two unions were shifted to nearby Kukdadi, Chitrakara, Panchgaon, Dashottar, Chakhatipara, Kaichmalda, Khalagaon and Mandra villages. Some people have taken refuge to their relatives' houses in nearby villages while who have no such relative, are passing their days under the open sky. Incessant rain for the last few days multiplied their sufferings.

Aklima, a victim of Garugaon village said they were getting food to live on and CI sheet to make new shelter beside the road. She said the erosion began in the beginning of June, but it took serious turn last week like the situation occurred in 1995. At that time the then BNP government put boulders at different erosion-vulnerable points at a cost of Taka 1.23 crore.

"We are now just at the mouth of the Padma," said secretary of Panchgaon union parisad Kamal Uddin. Four villages––Beduail, Banarigram, Noadda and Nagarjoyar––completely went under water during the last 20/25 days, making around 20 thousand people completely helpless. More 45,000 people are now on the verge of the danger, he added.

Secretary of Hasail Banari union Faruk Hawlader stressed the need for dredging the Bidgaon Char at the southwest side of Hasail union. Erosion might be checked to some extent by putting sandbags and boulders, he said. All new sandy land rising out of the bed of the river should be dredged out every year to keep the river course in order, he added. The local people are apparently still in dark about the real cause of their plight. They said unplanned extraction of sands from the riverbed by a section of unscrupulous traders is the main cause of erosion along the riverbank.

"My village has been totally ruined. Once I had much wealth, now I have nothing," wailed middle-aged Manwara Begum, who now resides in a makeshift house beside the road. "The river has taken away everything except my hands and legs," she said and pleaded, "Please let us live."

But, there is hardly any magic bullet solution to the problem of erosion if this sort of mindless sand extraction from the riverbed is continued. One has to stop it right now, then only you can check the erratic behaviour of the river by putting sandbags and boulders and through river training to redress the sufferings of the people of Munshiganj and other erosion-prone areas in the riverine Bangladesh (Holiday July 26, 2005).

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