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19 May, 2019 00:00 00 AM

Sand lifting from Pungli threatens bridges and embankment

Our Correspondent, Tangail
Sand lifting from Pungli threatens bridges and embankment
The recent photo shows a dredger engaged in lifting sand illegally near the Pouli railway bridge in Kalihati upazila of Tangail district. Independent Photo

The Pungli railway bridge on the Dhaka-North Bengal route and the Pungli bridge on the Dhaka-Bangabandhu bridge highway on the Pungli River in Kalihati upazila, and the Tangail town protection embankment in Tangail Sadar are under threat because of illegal sand lifting from the Pungli.  

Train services between the capital and the northern and south-western districts was suspended for 36 hours, as the soil under one of the approaches to the railway bridge was washed away by floodwaters on August 20, 2018. A disaster might occur if sand quarries continue unabated. The administration is not taking steps against the offenders, local people alleged.

Pungli is a tributary of the mighty Jamuna. It flows through the centre of Tangail district. A railway bridge and a highway bridge have been constructed on the river, bridging Dhaka with North and South Bengal districts via Tangail. The Pungli highway bridge was constructed at a cost of Tk. 48 crore recently. The 47km long Tangail town protection embankment was constructed at a cost of Tk. 120 crore 18 years ago by the CPP.

The embankment-cum-road has not been repaired and is now vulnerable. Unplanned sand mining by some influential people goes on unabated due to their links with political parties, as well as public representatives, locals said.

During a visit to the area recently, this correspondent saw heavy dredgers engaged in lifting sand from a very close point of the railway bridge and the highway bridge. The sand is being loaded with the help of “veku” machines and is being transported to other places. The unmindful sand collection might damage the two important bridges and the town protection embankment.

About a 150-metre area at Hinnaipara Fatikjani, which is about 50 feet from the railway bridge, was devoured during the rainy season, said Elenga Municipality Mayor Shafi Khan. A century-old graveyard went into the river within a few hours after the erosion began in October last, he said while talking to this correspondent after visiting the spot.  

Unplanned dredging and indiscriminate sand lifting in the area might be the reason behind the erosion, he added. If steps are not taken immediately, erosion might harm the bridges, the Mayor said.

The Pungli Primary School, Pungli railway and highway bridges, the Tangail town protection embankment, Elenga Bridge and hundreds of homesteads by the side of the river are under threat. The Elenga-Patal Bridge has become vulnerable as heavy sand loaded trucks are being transported on it.  The Elenga municipality area is covered in dust. Gas lines over the river were damaged twice for unplanned sand collection. Gas supply was disrupted causing inconvenience to users in Tangail and Gazipur districts.

The town protection dam in the east of the Pungli from Mohela, Agbether, Pachbether, Salina, Bartha to Korotia has become vulnerable. The embankment was eroded in Ramdebpur during the last rainy season. Local people on their own repaired it and saved the town from erosion.

If the sand collection continues, Tangail town, Gala, Gharindha and Korotia in Tangail and parts of Basail upazila with some educational institutions, mosques might be devoured by the river.

There is no government approved sand bed in the area. Yet sand traders have been doing a brisk business in these vital areas of the bridge. The authorities seem to have turned a blind eye, Anwar, a local, alleged.

Ayub Ali, Aleya Begum, Renu Begum and locals said the dust is unbearable. On the other hand, the government is losing a huge amount of revenue.

When contacted, the UNO of Kalihati, Amit Debnath, said the AC (land) conducted a mobile court and seized dredgers and arrested six persons. They were freed after paying a fine of Tk 50,000 as fine and undertaking to remove the sand lifting equipment.

Shahidul Islam, Deputy Commissioner of Tangail, said he has asked the UNO of Kalihati to look into the matter. The administration will do the needful to save the Tangail town protection embankment.



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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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