Ill planned flood control causes Marooned cruel waters
Vast swath of land in 3 districts becomes waterlogged
Around five lakh people remain marooned as a vast area spread over Jessore, Khulna and Satkhira districts has become permanently waterlogged due to illy planned floodcontrol measures and siltation of the local rivers, subsidence of the wetlands, and lack of proper drainage. WATERLOGGED...
A woman operates a tubewell in knee-deep water as drinking water becomes scarce at Raripara of Tala upazila in Satkhira. As days pass, the conditions grow even grimmer for the locals. Many of them who have moved onto embankments and roads said they could hardly manage one meal a day. In some villages, not a piece of dry land is left for the people to bury or cremate their dear ones. Tripti Rani Bairagi of Baje Kultia village at Monirampur said about a month ago, they had to drown a neighbour's body in Beel Bakar, failing to cremate her. The parents have to keep their children tied up to their beds at night so that they do not fall into the water. Several thousand houses on 80,000 hectares of land are now under ankle- to knee-deep water.
In total, around two lakh hectares of land remain waterlogged and the number of affected people is around 12 lakh, according to Water Committee, a local civil society forum campaigning for measures to solve the problem of persistent waterlogging. Waterlogging began to plague the area in 1987-88 as riverbeds rose alarmingly due to growing siltation. It gets extensive during the rains when rivers and beels flow over their banks with almost no natural channel left for the water to drain away. The problem could be traced back to the mid 60s when 37 polders and 282 sluice gates were constructed across Khulna, Satkhira and part of Jessore districts. Following the construction, sedimentation took place only in river channels and ultimately raised the riverbeds in comparison to adjacent beels or wetlands.
On the other hand, the wetlands subsided due to non-deposition of sediment, and in the course of time, a vast expanse of land became permanently waterlogged. The waterlogging poses threat also to the ecology as vegetation, wildlife and livestock face extinction due to the perennial problem.
Lately, the plight of the affected people has worsened with the outbreaks of diarrhoea and other diseases. Locals have little access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, making them more exposed to the waterborne diseases. Academic activities have also been seriously disrupted, as most of the educational institutions remain submerged and closed for months.
During a recent visit to the worst affected six upazilas of the three districts, this correspondent found almost all the houses in the villagers to be under knee-deep water, forcing the locals to go through a terrible ordeal. The villagers were seen moving on small boats and washing kitchen utensils in the same water where they defecate and urinate.
Excepting some 200 metric tons of rice and Tk 40 lakh, the government did not send any relief to the locality whereas the people have been suffering for the last two years, locals alleged. Apart from a small number of tents and oral saline, the NGOs too are not supplying any relief aid. Baikuntha Bihari Roy, a teacher of Moshiahhati Degree College in Monirampur upazila, said," We want the government to declare the six upazilas a disaster-prone area."
"We have long been living in extreme inhuman conditions, but there is none to take steps to relieve us of this life of unmitigated misery," said Kalipada, a teacher of Kultia Girls High School. "It seems like there's no human rights organisations both at home and abroad," he lamented.
Champa Bairagi, who passed SSC examinations this year, said, "Our family depends solely on my father who catches fish to earn the living. Often he does not earn a penny which makes us starve that day." Excessive waterlogging severely hampers crops cultivation and fish farming, as most the fields remain submerged round the year while the fisheries cannot hold the fish within their boundaries for flooding.
While Champa of Dumurtola village in Abhoynagar upazila was talking to The Daily Star, standing on a road, many villagers were taking their children to the lone dry place in the area to let them play. Champa said she was compelled to discontinue her study, as her father Krishnapada could not afford her college admission, which takes a maximum fee of Tk 600.
The lower middle class people too seem troubled, as they could neither go for fishing or plucking water lily. "Ashamed, we cannot even go to collect relief. Sometimes we send our children secretly to get relief," said Sanjit Sarker of Bagdanga village in Keshabpur upazila. Dashrath Roy of Moshiahhati village has to run a five-member family, selling labour in cultivation. He said,"You won't have to come here anymore. We will starve to death by the time you will come the next time." Several thousand people in Tala and Kalaroa upazilas of Satkhira are also faced with severe troubles, as their houses remain submerged.
Madhabi Pal of Raripara village in Tala upazila who has taken shelter on a road after her house went under water told The Daily Star that she has just managed to have some rice after four long days of hunger. She said her three sons have gone to their in-laws houses with their families, leaving her to look after the household goods and two goats. Some affected people alleged that local lawmakers are indifferent to their sufferings. They have yet to take any measures to get the locals out of this dangerous situation.
MM Amin Uddin, a local lawmaker, dismissed the allegation as baseless. He said he has had a series of meetings with Director General of Bangladesh Water Development Board and local administration to work out a solution to the waterlogging. He said they have been thinking over digging a canal to drain out water to Bhairab.
Source: The Daily Star, August 09, 2006
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