Around two decades ago, the people of Karnapur Beparitari village in Mogolhat union, Lalmonirhat used to live prosperously on the bank of Bangladesh’s trans-boundary Dharla River.
The river was a blessing for the farmers and villagers living in the area, since it was a source of water for irrigation, fishing and inland transportation.
The situation, however, began changing as the river became more aggressive and claimed a number of villages through erosion. As a result, thousands of families were left displaced from their ancestral lands.
Over the last decade, the villagers have been forced to shift their home, cattle and belongings following the ever continuing river’s geographical shifting.
“The river has come three kilometres closer to the village, changing its earlier course due to extreme erosion. Several localities of the village went into the river. Families that were once rich have become poor, losing their possessions and livelihood,” said Amena Begum, an elderly local of the village.
Six years ago, when the river flowed further away from its current course, Amena used to meet her family’s requirements from the rice, vegetables and other crops produced on her family properties.
On the bank, she had around 20 acres of cropland on which her son cultivated produce each season. Their land produced enough crops to meet their (Amena’s family) demands while also earned some extra by selling the surplus.
At present, the family lives miserably as their lands were grasped by the eroding Dharla River. They currently live in makeshift houses on the only remaining little piece of land they own. Without any government support, the family has been living under dire threat of further displacement, as the erosion continues.
“Since last year, we have shifted our home twice. This year, when the monsoon flood hit, the river became furious and destroyed some eight to ten houses overnight. We hardly managed to save the family members, cattle and other valuables, but two of my houses were washed away,” said Md Aminul Haque, Amena’s elder son.
“The erosion continues progressing and I am almost landless now. We are yet to receive support from the government. I do not know where to move in future if things continue to deteriorate like this,” Aminul told the Dhaka Tribune.
Aminul’s son, Md Lavlu Islam, an HSC student at a local college, said he is fed up over the continual river erosion and misfortune. Ever since he was a child, he has experienced turmoil and hardship, while devastated by their transformation from prosperity into poverty. The family now struggles to survive on a daily basis, as members of Lavlu’s family work as day labourers or at people’s homes.
“We are worried about our future, since we have been repeatedly uprooted from our home due to erosion. Moreover, the monsoon flood this year has ravaged our village and forced us to move once again,” Lavlu said.
“We are hoping the government would take steps for us to eliminate our misery,” he added.
According to the locals, over the last two decades, more than 1,500 families have been displaced from Beparitari, Majhipara and Uttarpara villages due to river erosion. Most of these people are now living in makeshift houses on government land, char areas, or at relatives’ houses out of extreme hunger and poverty.
The government has rehabilitated some 300 families in different char areas in the region, providing them with land and financial support.
“With the help of the district’s land office, we have rehabilitated around 300 families at Baluchar area, but these people are a small portion of the total amount of displaced locals. A number of them are still living on government land, beside the railway lines,” Mogolhat Union Parishad (UP) Ward 3 member Nazrul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune.
The government has also provided two bundles of tin to make houses and Tk6,000, including rice, pulse and oil to the 32 affected families wrecked by the monsoon flood in early August, which was hardly sufficient, said the UP member.
“The relief was inadequate and ran out soon after it was distributed among the victims. The government needs to pay extra attention to the affected people for their proper rehabilitation,” added Nazrul.
Md Shafiul Arif, the deputy commissioner (DC) of Lalmonirhat district, told the Dhaka Tribune that the government was working to rehabilitate the displaced people, while a number of victims had already been given bundles of tin and money.
“There are different government projects for the affected people to rehabilitate and support them. People who were left out of the rehabilitation projects would be brought under these programmes,” said the DC.