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Dhaka Tribune

MADE IN BANGLADESH

Mango hub Chapainawabganj now a development hub

This is the ninth part of an exclusive series on development initiatives that have changed the picture of the country’s 64 districts over the last decade and a half

Update : 04 Nov 2023, 09:44 AM

Chapainawabganj is known to fruit lovers for its variety of mangoes and is often referred to as the mango hub. But the Awami League (AL) led government has transformed the district into a development hub through a number of projects taken and implemented in the past 15 years.

One of them is the rubber dam, the largest in the country and the tenth in South Asia, which is being constructed on the Mahananda River, not far from Chapainawabganj city. 

Dockyard and Engineering Works Limited, a commercial entity being operated by the Bangladesh Navy, is constructing the dam 500 yards downstream of the Birshrestha Captain Mohiuddin Jahangir Bridge.

Upon its successful implementation, the dam will enhance irrigation to around 8,000 hectares of land on both sides of the river for yielding varieties of crops valued at around Tk55.83 crore and fishes worth around Tk22.37 crore annually.

Photo: Dhaka Tribune

In addition to improving the living and livelihood conditions of people residing along the banks of the river, the project being implemented at a cost of around Tk251 crore is intended to protect the environment from the adverse impact of climate change.

It will restore the navigability of the Mahananda River and more than 7,500 hectares of farming lands under irrigation in the Chapainawabganj district, according to experts. 

Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) sources said that the contractors have so far completed 88% of the project work. The ever largest rubber dam scheme is being implemented on a 36-kilometre area. Moreover, a 10 kilometre area upstream and a 26 kilometre area downstream of the 353-metre dam are being brought under dredging, said Mokhlesur Rahman, executive engineer of BWDB.

He said that the project would be completed in June 2024, although the schedule was to end the project by June 2023. The duration of the project has been extended twice. 

Upon successful implementation of the scheme, more than 8,500 hectares of land will be brought under irrigation in the surrounding areas.

Local farmers said once the dam is completed, the retained water could easily be used for supplementary irrigation of Aman, wheat, pulse, oil seeds and vegetable cultivation along with pisciculture and duck farming.

Photo: Dhaka Tribune

Farmer Ali told Dhaka Tribune that a large area of uncultivated land will come under cultivation once the dam is completed. This will save vast areas from turning into deserts and the local people will benefit by the cultivation of various items. He said that farmers, therefore, demand speedy completion of the dam.

Fish trader Shamsul Alam said there is no fish in the river as there is no water. He hopes that once the project is done there will be water in the river and they will be able to catch fish again. Otherwise, the vast area will remain as a playground for school children. 

Abdul Kader, a local resident, said people can’t access tube well water as the level of water has gone deeper. He hopes the dam will save a lot of families in the region.  

Md Mojahar Ali Prong, executive engineer of the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) in Chapainawabganj, said farmers will get easy access to irrigation water and the underground water will be restored after the dam is completed. A vast area of cultivable land will come under irrigation and local farmers will benefit, he added.

The preparation for the construction of the dam began in January 2017 and was passed by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) the following year. The Planning Commission gave an estimated cost of Tk187.31 crore for the project which was revised to Tk251 crore later. Terming the project as profitable, an additional Tk10.75 crore was sought from the government for the project in the 2016-17 fiscal year, Tk49.16 crore in the next fiscal and Tk60.5 crore in the next. 

At a huge public meeting in Chapainawabganj on April 23, 2011, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave an assurance of rubber dam construction in response to local demands.

Later on, BWDB adopted a project titled, “Rubber Dam Construction and River Dredging in Mohananda”, for implementation of the prime minister’s announcement. 

Apart from the dam, the government undertook various other projects for development in education and employment, road communication and rail connectivity, electrification, tourism, health and water development.

Photo: Dhaka Tribune

Education and employment

At least 10 colleges in Chapainawabganj now have new buildings, thanks to a development spree carried out by the ruling AL government in the past 15 years. 

A youth development centre has been constructed in a PTI area aiming to reduce unemployment among the local youth population. Close to 100 private rice mills have been built in the Bulonpur area of the Sadar Upazila. Over 5,000 people work in these mills, local sources said. Another 3,000 are currently employed at the Sonamasjid land port. In order to create more employment opportunities, the government will soon extend rail communication till the land port at Sonamasjid.

Road, rail connectivity

During the past 15 years, a number of bridges, culverts and connecting roads have been constructed in the district including the 547 metre-long Sheikh Hasina Bridge. A number of connecting roads have been constructed between the district and the upazilas. As a result, the road communication system has seen a massive transformation in the past decade.

The Amnura Bypass railway line, connecting Chapainawabganj with Dhaka has been constructed at a cost of Tk21.14 crore. The project, aiming to start inter-district train on the route, has recently been completed.

Photo: Dhaka Tribune

Health sector

The Chapainawabganj Sadar Hospital has been transformed into a 250-bed one from 100 beds recently at a cost of Tk30 crore. The Bangladesh Jatiya Andha Kalyan Somiti Eye Hospital in the district has added a new dimension to the local health sector. The hospital has been constructed at a cost of Tk6.61 crore.

Tourism 

The government has undertaken a project to transform the popular Kuja Raja Mango Orchard as a mango museum and tourism spot, aiming to draw tourists in the area. The orchard is situated on 31.99 acre land at Kansat in Shibganj. There are at least 2,100 mango trees of 16 different varieties at the orchard. 

A tourism centre is being constructed beside the Shekh Hasina Bridge on a 44-acre land. Bangladesh Tourism Corporation and the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism are implementing the project at a cost of Tk40 crore. 

A water kingdom is being constructed in Shanti More area on Ajaipur Beel. The local administration has cleaned the water body and undertook a renovation project to prepare it for the water kingdom where children would come for amusement. The water body was previously dominated by water hyacinths.

Additionally, historical places such as the Sonamasjid, Tohakhana, Daroshbari and Chamchika Mosque are being renovated to attract tourists in the district. A motel has been constructed at a cost of Tk1 crore in this regard. Moreover, a children’s park has been constructed in front of the deputy commissioner’s office.

Photo: Dhaka Tribune

Power sector

Around 8,000 families living in 28 villages close to the border areas have come across electrification at a cost of Tk1,113 crore. With the slogan, “Sheikh Hasinar Udyog, Ghore Ghore Bidyut” (power in each house through Sheikh Hasina’s initiative) has already gained popularity among the people in the area. 

So far, 90 kilometre area of the total 107 kilometre has come under electrification. A sub-station under the Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture has been set up at a cost of Tk1.42 crore. Apart from this, five upazilas have been brought under 100% electrification.

Photo: Dhaka Tribune

Water development

Apart from building the rubber dam, the BWBD in Chapainawabganj has completed 11 projects and two other projects are currently under progress. The projects will cost the government Tk1,481.61 crore. The local administration has also built an embankment in Shibganj Upazila on a 25 kilometre area. 

Md Ziaur Rahman, president of district AL and member of parliament from Chapainawabganj-2, said a number of academic buildings, six model mosques, two police station buildings and hundreds of madrasas and primary schools have been constructed in the district during the AL regime. Apart from this, the destitute in the district have received 4,200 houses.

Abdul Wadud, general secretary of district AL, and also a member of parliament from Chapainawabganj-3, hailed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for undertaking a number of development projects in his constituency.  

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