POST TIME: 24 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 24 August, 2019 02:27:07 AM
impact of climate change
9-year dredging project taken to tackle floods

9-year dredging project 
taken to tackle floods

Due to the impact of climate change, rivers now carry over two billion tonnes of sediment from the upstream during the monsoon each year, causing a rise in the country’s riverbeds and massive floods. Against this backdrop, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has taken up a 9-year-long mega dredging project to restore the country’s waterways through river management and reduce floods. This would include enhancing navigability, minimizing drainage congestion, wetland eco-system improvement, irrigation and landing facilities.  

The BIWTA estimates it would need about to Tk 105,000 crore to restore and improve 10,500km of waterways across the country between 2019 and 2027. The BIWTA is conducting a study on 178 rivers and it is expected to be completed by 2020 or 2021, according BIWTA sources. They said it had already completed a study on 69 rivers including Buriswar, Payra, Soa, Sutia, Kachamatia, Dhorla, Old Brahmaputra, Tulai, Punorbhoba, Dhanu, Namakura, Jhinai, Ghagot, Bangshi, Nagda, Sangu, Matamuhuri, Meghna and rivers of the haor areas.

“We have already submitted a development project profile (DPP) to the shipping ministry for approval. This was done after the completion of the study on 69 rivers. Dredging work is going on in 36 of the 69 rivers,” Saidur Rahman, additional chief engineer (dredging), BIWTA, told this correspondent.

Three projects—restoration of the Gumti river, Ghorautra-Bolai-Sregang (partially of Mithamoin upazila), Dhanu-Namakura of Itna upazila and Dhaleswari (partial) of Astogram upazila and four rivers Jhinai, Ghagot, Bangshi and Nagda had been already been sent to the planning ministry for approval through shipping ministry, he said.

According to Rahman, the World-Bank-assisted dredging work from Ashuganj to Chattogram will begin from the next fiscal year, though the project had been approved

by the ECNEC on November 10, 2016.

The DPP of the 616-km-long stretch involving four rivers—Jhinai, Ghagot, Bangshi and Nagda—was sent to the planning ministry on July 10 for approval, he added.

Once there were about 25,000 km of waterways in the country; now the length had dropped to about 6,000km, he said, adding that at least 1,500 km of waterways had been been restored in the last 10 years.

Untimely heavy rainfall, volatile weather due to climate change and over two billion tonnes of silt coming down from the upstream and raising the riverbeds are proving to be major causes of floods in Bangladesh.

Climate change is raising the sea level, which, in turn, is hampering the discharge of flood waters through the Meghna basin into the Bay of Bengal.

According to Saidur Rahman, “The flood waters carry over two billion tonnes of sediments from the upstream during the monsoon each year. This sediment is raising the riverbeds.”

As a result, the rivers were spilling over their banks, flooding villages and affecting lakhs of people, he said. Excessive sedimentation was choking many rivers and killing them, he added.

“We have a total of 35 dredgers to maintain the country’s waterways. At least 200 dredgers are needed to maintain more than 3,500 km of waterways during the dry season,” the BIWTA official said.

The BIWTA planned to remove 300 lakh cubic metres of silt in the FY2019–20 under a maintenance dredging programme, Rahman added.

He further said, “The government has approved Tk. 207 crore for this dredging programme. But our estimate is that the volume of silt will cross 450 lakh cubic metres due to the current floods, which are depositing enormous quantities of silt on the riverbeds,” said saidur Rahman. It would be very difficult to maintain the waterways with only 35 BIWTA dredgers.

 The implementation of the project would change the total scenario of the country by helping many to become self-reliant by using rivers and its waters round the year, Rahman observed.

 He further said the farmers would find it easier to irrigate their fields, duck farming and fishing rearing would also increase by using river waters.

Besides, communication by waterways would get a further boost, helping to increase inter-district trading, he added.