POST TIME: 14 October, 2019 00:00 00 AM
650 erosion-prone areas identified across country

650 erosion-prone areas identified across country

The water resources ministry has identified around 650 erosion-prone areas across the country, among which 60-70 areas are seriously vulnerable to erosion. Executive engineers have been asked to submit reports within a month regarding the Water Development Board’s (WDB) lands which are illegally occupied in 64 districts across the country. Against this backdrop, the ministry has undertaken 94 projects involving Tk. 7932.45 crore to prevent river erosion, to repair flood protection embankments and for dredging purposes to deal with flood. An additional Tk. 382 crore has also been allocated to meet emergency work like dumping of geo-bags to prevent river erosion. AKM Enamul Hoque Shameem, deputy minister for the water resources ministry, has revealed this to The Independent. According to the WDB, the most erosion-prone districts are: Bogura, Sirajganj, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha, Rangpur, Chandpur, Manikganj, Madaripur, Rajbari, Shariatpur, Faridpur, Tangail, Jamalpur and the coastal areas of Patuakhali. “We’ve taken pre-emptive measures to prevent river erosion caused by possible floods next year. We’ve started the repair and dredging work,” Shameem said.

He also said most of the flood protection embankments were built at least 40–50 years ago. “We’ve planned to make the existing embankments sustainable by raising their heights. At least, 16,000-17,000km of such old embankments are under the ministry,” he added.

River treatment and dredging is a very important task, he said, adding that guidelines have already been given to the WDB engineers to complete the repair works, including construction of erosion protection embankments, without any delay.

“I have visited at least 38 erosion-prone areas in the last eight months and gathered practical experience. It’s time now to use our experience. The recent flood-affected people demanded construction of flood protection embankments instead of relief. So, we’ve given emphasis on protecting these people from flood waters and erosion on a priority basis before the next monsoon starts,” Shameem said in reply to a query.

Around Tk. 7932.45 crore has already been allocated for 94 projects, including erosion prevention and repair work purposes, he said, adding that an additional Tk. 382 crore has also been allocated for emergency purposes.

“We hope to complete the work within the stipulated period. We’ve also announced an award for WDB officials for their excellent performances, including foreign tours,” he also said.

When asked how large tracts of WDB lands across the country have been encroached, Shameem replied: “Letters have already been issued to all executive engineers across the country regarding the occupied lands of the WDB.  The engineers have been asked to submit reports within a month.”

Riverbank erosion mainly occurs due to the braided nature of rivers in Bangladesh. It is further aggravated by heavy rainfall, particularly upstream, and increased water flow.

Most recently, owing to climate change, the rate of riverbank erosion has drastically increased, resulting in a sudden collapse of riverbanks and devastation of whole unions, upazilas and villages.

Every year, river erosion affects millions of people by damaging crops, cattle, housing structures, and farmland. Additionally, it erodes public infrastructure and communication systems. The unpredictable shifting behaviour of the rivers and their encroachment affect the rural floodplain population as well as all urban centres and infrastructure.