POST TIME: 8 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 7 September, 2018 09:53:47 PM
Padma erosion wreaks havoc at Naria
500 establishments devoured, more under threat
Our correspondent, Shariatpur

Padma erosion wreaks havoc at Naria

This photo taken yesterday shows a building on the verge of collapse due to erosion by the Padma River in Naria upazila of Shariatpur. INDEPENDENT PHOTO

Erosion caused by the Padma has taken a devastating turn in Naria upazila. The damage caused has been immense. Nearly 500 business establishments, including Dewan Clinic and four three-stroyed buildings, have been gobbled up by the river in the last three days. The river has also devoured 300 shops of the 200-year-old Mulfotganj Bazar.

According to government statistics, at least 4,000 people have been rendered homeless by the erosion of the Padma this season.

Valuable instruments and furniture of the Naria Upazila Health Complex have been shifted to a safer place. At least 1,000 business establishments in Mulfotganj Bazar, including government and non-government offices, bank, insurance, pharmacy, school, madrasa, mosque and other institutions, are under the threat of erosion.

The Mulfotganj Madrasa, a heritage institution of Naria upazila, may be devoured by the river any day. People living in this area are in a state of perpetual fear. They are looking for new residences and shifting to safer places. They complained they received got no help from the government so far.

A visit to the erosion-hit areas revealed a grim picture. The rapacious Padma is gnawing off arable land, dwelling houses, trees and fields with standing crops. Mulfotganj, Bashtola, Chondipur, Kaderpur and Sureshwar are now desolate places, with most of the inhabitants  having left for safer areas and others packing their belongings.

Many of the affected people are yet find new dwellings or build new ones. They have been passing their days under the open sky. They complained that the government was yet to provide relief materials or take steps to halt the erosion.

Imam Hossain Dewan, former chairman of the Kederpur union under Naria upazila, said: “We have tried to save our houses by making dykes with bamboo, trees, sand and other materials, but  our efforts went in vain. We're now helpless and hopeless. The Padma has destroyed us.”

Nazrul Islam, member of the Naria Bazaar Banik Samity, said: “The Padma has become more furious this year. The river erosion has already rendered about 2,000 families homeless in different areas in Kaderpur, Ghorishar and Sureshwar unions of Naria upazila.”

Shahidul Islam Babu Rari, mayor of Naria Pourashava, said the river also swallowed the Chonidipur bus stand, Chondipur launch ghat, the WAPDA Bazar, Saheberchar Bazar and Sureshwar Bazar. The 200-year-old WAPDA launch ghat has already gone under the Padma. Strong currents have sliced away the Chondipur-Sureshwar road, while the Naria Pourashava, Mulfotganj Madrasa, Naria bazar, and Sureshwar High School and College are under threat.

The government map of Naria and Janjira upazilas has already undergone a drastic change due to random erosion by the Padma, local experts say.

Md. Mobarak Ali Sikder, chairman of the Janjira upazila parishad, said at least 1,000 families of Kunderchar and Khejurtala villages had been rendered homeless. Besides, the Khejurtala Bazaar with 10 to 15 shops, two mosques, one primary school, about a third of the Sureswar Protection Embankment and vast areas of cultivable land had been devoured by the unrelenting Padma in just one week, he added.

The affected people who have sought refuge in makeshift shelters were suffering from different types of diseases like fever, dysentery, bacterial infection, diarrhoea, enteric fever, and hepatitis for want of pure and safe drinking water, said Md. Nazrul Khalifa, a village doctor.

Most of these people are either half-fed or unfed as they have no work and income.

Finding no jobs, many among this floating population have taken to begging or resorted to anti-social activities. The erosion-hit people expect the government to take up immediate erosion-control measures and demand rehabilitation of those rendered homeless.

Sanjida Yasmin, UNO of Naria, said: “We have already distributed dry food among 2,500 erosion victims. Besides, tin sheets and cash will be distribute among 350 erosion victims soon.”

When conducted, Md.Shafikul Islam, executive engineer of the Water Development Board, Shariatpur, said: “We have already built half of the Sureshwar-Wapda Embankment to prevent the  erosion. We will start building rest of the embankment as early as possible."