The Baleshwar River still broke its banks in three spots
The threat of a cyclonic storm and the tidal surges that often accompany it causes great trepidation among the people inhabiting the banks of the Baleshwar River in coastal district Bagerhat, mainly due to the lack of a durable embankment and the indelible experience of Cyclone Sidr in 2007.
Cyclone Fani on May 4 this year also forced the people to evacuate choosing life over property but in the end its reduced intensity allowed most of them to return to their homes.
The Baleshwar River still broke its banks in three spots-- Bogi, Southkhali and Chaltebunia -- inundating villages in the area. Those who still live by its banks thus pass their nights in fear any time a cyclone signal is raised.
Now almost 12 years have passed after Sidr hit the coastal region, but the people haven't seen any progress towards building a durable embankment in Bagerhat.
Visiting the area, our correspondent found that temporary repairs were made to the embankment in Boga and Satghor after Fani passed. But the people of the area have grown frustrated with these temporary works that can give away any time, and so they expressed their disappointment that their misery will never end.
The terrifying Sidr hit on November 15, 2007, triggering 15-16 foot tall tidal waves that destroyed the embankment and submerged numerous villages. The official death toll was eventually raised to 3,447, but thousands also remained missing, who can now be presumed dead.
People of Sharankhola raised a slogan then, "We don't want relief but a durable embankment on Baleshwar River".
Local sources said, the construction of 62 kilometer durable embankment at Polder Number 35/1 in Sharankhola area began in 2016 with World Bank funding.
The construction was supposed to end by January, 2019 but was halted as the contractor asked for more time till June, 2020.
First Engineering Bureau of Henan Water Conservancy (CHWE), a Chinese construction firm has been contracted to build the embankment the under Water Development Board (WDB), the responsible body for building and maintaining embankments and dams in Bangladesh.
Mujibur Rahman of Dakkhin Southkhali village beside Baleshwar River said, "We suffer a lot when the Baleshwar River water overflows embankment and enter our villages. We cannot cook for days and live a miserable life on the roads with our livestock."
Jakir Hossain, UP member of Southkhali ward number 4, said more than 600 to 700 feet of the embankment was collapsed by Fani and over 700 houses were inundated at Dakkhin Southkhali and Chaltebunia village.
Md Shahin Hawlader of the area told UNB, "Fear of death is our daily companion due to the lack of a durable embankment on Baleshwar River."
Md Jamal Jomaddar, Md Safij Khan, Noor Mohammad, Abdul Jalil, Md Shamsher Ali and others of the area said more than 75 percent of Bogi area was grabbed by Baleshwar River erosion. The only road changed its direction for five to six times. The people have only 25 percent of the agricultural land they used to.".
A durable, permanent embankment is mandatory for saving them now, they added.
Engineer Md Nahid-uz-Zaman Khan of Bagerhat Water Development Board (WDB) said, 'We are making a temporary embankment as the old one had collapsed in Bogi area."
A proposal has been sent to the authorities concerned over the land acquisition necvessary for building it, he added.
Engineer Md Ashraful Alam of Coastal Embankment Improvement Project Phase-1 (CEIP-1) said, 'The construction of 62km durable embankment from Sharankhola to Morelganj in polder no 35/1 area is underway. We have requested fund from the World Bank for 3km river management at Bogi of Sharankhola and Amtali of Morelganj area.
He however said "complexities over land acquisition" had halted the construction of a durable embankment..
Engineer Alam remains optimistic that the construction of a durable embankment will be completed by June 2020 if the funds for river management and land acquisition can be managed.
Tapan Kumar Biswas, Bagerhat Deputy Commissioner, confirming that the land acquisition process was underway. "We will hand over the land to the authority concerned after a meeting over land distribution and hearing the objections."