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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

How Bangladesh is gaining land in the Bay of Bengal

  • Cross-dam project to reclaim 10,000 hectares
  • Estimated cost of project is Tk588.94 crore

 

Update : 09 Sep 2023, 11:45 AM

Just 30 kilometres from Cox's Bazar, a new land is emerging in the middle of the sea, modelled after the Sundarbans mangrove forest. This expansion of Bangladesh's land promises economic opportunities for the locals as it paves the way for a new industrial and tourism hub. 

Environmentalists are concerned that a significant portion of Bangladesh is potentially submerging into the sea due to the adverse effects of climate change. In this backdrop, a new landmass is emerging in the Bay of Bengal and taking shape, stretching mile after mile. 

According to the Ministry of Water Resources, Char Nangulia in Noakhali was once part of the Bay of Bengal three decades ago but has now transformed into a thriving village. Over the past century, millions of tons of sediment carried by the Padma, Meghna, and Brahmaputra rivers have enriched this land.

Since 2016, Bangladesh has been gaining an average of 16 square kilometres of land annually, which rose to 20sq-km in 2021. This natural transformation is expanding Bangladesh's territory further. 

However, river erosion continues to claim about 32km land each year. 

Just as nature is taking a lot from Bangladesh, it is also giving back generously. At least 10 times the amount of land being washed away by the Meghna River erosion is now emerging, officials say.

A lot of green farmhouses have been built on the islands made up of sand and silt in the Bay of Bengal. From 1994 to 2021, the government arranged khas lands for more than 23,000 landless families.

According to sources, numerous chars and islands, such as Bhasan Char and Urir Char, have emerged and prospered. Just 30km from Cox's Bazar, a new land resembling the Sundarbans is emerging from the sea. This forest will safeguard the future of eastern Bangladesh.

The ongoing development spree is also seen in Noakhali. A proposed cross-dam project aims to reclaim 10,000 hectares of land from the sea at an estimated cost of Tk588.94 crore. If implemented, this project will enhance communication, protect agricultural land from erosion, boost crop production, ensure local food security, increase employment opportunities, and ultimately improve rural economic conditions.

It is known that Urir Char is being linked to the mainland of Noakhali district. To ensure the success of this initiative, the government has made the decision to reclaim about 10,000 hectares of land from the sea by establishing permanent connectivity between Urir Char and the mainland of Noakhali. Cross dams and tie dams stretching more than 7km will be constructed in Companiganj and Subarnachar upazilas of Noakhali.

The government has taken up a project for this purpose. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, as of 2007, the area of Urir Char Union was 26,001 acres, or 105.23sq-km. According to the statistics of 2011, its population was 11,923. Of them, 6,425 are men and 5,498 are women. 

Apart from Urir Char, there are numerous char lands that have emerged from the sea over the centuries. The government has new plans for these new islands and chars. As the population continues to grow and agricultural land is rapidly shrinking while there is a shortage of land needed for industrialization, this new land is a new possibility for Bangladesh.

Noakhali Deputy Commissioner Dewan Mahbubur Rahman said: “In the next 20 to 30 years, the land quality of the chars and islands will improve. The country will be protected from natural disasters. These chars and islands will be used for planned housing, industrial, and tourism sectors as per the requirement. Naturally, land formation is not new. But it's a huge achievement for any country.”

He also added: “The government has already taken up a project to build dams between Urir Char and Noakhali. If the project is implemented, it will be possible to reduce poverty in the project area by increasing agricultural production, food security, and employment at the local level. As a result, the rural socio-economic condition will improve.”

When asked about this, State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam said the sea would be the property of Bangladesh. “Thousands of acres of land are emerging in the ocean. These will be the assets of the future Bangladesh. The government has a lot of plans in this regard.”

He further said: “The Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 lays emphasis on preserving river banks, digging rivers and canals, controlling floods through re-excavation and preventing river erosion, mitigating disaster risk, protecting lives and property, and increasing agricultural production.”

For this reason, the project related to the decision to reclaim 10,000 hectares of land from the sea will improve the rural socio-economic condition of the area.

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