Millions of people in coastal areas of Bangladesh live in constant fear of cyclones and other natural disasters as the bridges built in Pakistan era have been damaged and no new bridges have been built since the country’s liberation.
In the 1960s, 139 bridges were built in 13 provinces of the country, covering an area of 5,810 kilometres, by the then Pakistani government. After independence, only Bangladesh did repair work on the dams.
Experts say dilapidated dams can no longer save coastal areas from natural disasters.
According to Roxy Matthew Cole, a climatologist at the India Institute of Tropical Meteorology, six out of the 10 most violent cyclones in history have formed in the Bay of Bengal. About 80% of the world’s hurricane deaths occur in this region.
According to ITM stats, about Rs five crore in 19 coastal districts of Bangladesh are under severe threat due to the increasing trend of cyclones in the Bay of Bengal.
In the 1960s, a 30 km long bridge was built in the coastal area of Gapura Union in Xyamnagar, Satkhira. But the Federation lost a large area of its territory due to the erosion of the river as the bridge was damaged.
GM Masudul Alam, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gabura Union, told The Business Standard, “Gabura has been reduced in size to 33 kilometers from 50 kilometers due to river erosion. If the bridge is not repaired quickly, the island will be completely lost from the map. Of the country.”
Agricultural production on the island has fallen to almost zero due to salt water intrusion through the damaged dam.
Nurul Islam, Deputy Director of the Satkhira Agricultural Extension Department said, “Once, 20-25 varieties of rice were grown in Satkhira. But the lands of this area have lost their fertility due to the salinity of the water. Many people have started to raise fish by cutting dams and introducing salt water to the ground, damaging dams and land.”
Abu al-Khair, executive engineer of the Satkhira-1 Water Development Board, said, “Studies have shown that 3% of the dam’s topsoil is washed away in every monsoon. As such, 36 kilometers of dams are supposed to disappear within a year.”
Syed Hassan Imam, Director of the Coastal Dam Improvement Project (CEIP-1) and Additional Chief Engineer of the Bangladesh Water Development Board, said, “Out of 139, 60 bridges are now at risk. We were unable to renovate these dams due to various reasons. The BWDB was renovated and rebuilt The rest was built by the BWDB at various times. However, no new dam was built.”
According to BWDB sources, most of the dams in the country were damaged by back-to-back cyclones, including the disastrous cyclones in 1970 and 1991. Super cyclone Sidr alone destroyed 2,341 km of dams in 30 coastal areas. Of this, 391 km were completely lost and 1,950 km were partially damaged.
In 2009, Cyclone Aila destroyed 683 km of levees in Khulna, Satkhira and Bagherhat districts, Cyclone Amphan destroyed 478 km of levees in 10 coastal districts while 678 km were partially damaged.
Mohammed Abu al-Khair said, “Coastal dams expired a long time ago. At the time they were built, the only goal was to protect the population from the tide. But the dams at present are not able to withstand the pressure of frequent cyclones.”
Thousands of coastal fishermen and their families living in the dam area under the Chattogram EPZ Police Station have placed soil and sandbags on the seaside on their own initiative to protect themselves from storms and tsunamis. About 80% of the world’s cyclone deaths occur in the Bay of Bengal region. Photography: Muhammad Minhaz Al-Din.
“> Thousands of coastal fishermen and their families living in the dam area under the Chattogram EPZ Police Station have placed soil and sandbags on the seaside on their own initiative to protect themselves from storms and tsunamis. About 80% of the world’s cyclone deaths occur in the Bay of Bengal region. Photography: Muhammad Minhaz Al-Din.
BWDB has implemented a project worth Tk300 crore to construct a sustainable bridge on Banshkhali Coast in Chattogram. But cracks appeared in that dam before construction was completed. Local residents noted irregularities in the management of funds for this issue.
Aminul Islam, from the Khankhanabad union in Panchkhali, said, “I lost my house five times at sea due to the great cyclone of 1991. Recently, I built a house with great difficulty. Now the bridge is on the verge of destruction again. Political leaders, contractors and development board officials are looted. Dams are government money using substandard materials in the name of renovating dams.”
“Earlier, we were working on low-cost designs. That’s why the renovations were not sustainable,” said Nahid Oz Zaman, executive engineer for BWDB, in this regard.
The repair works of 50 km bridge and 2 km river management at Dakop Upazila in Khulna at a cost of Rs 150 crore are expected to be completed next June. However, a proposal was sent to the ministry to increase the cost of the project.
Ashraf Alam, Executive Engineer, Khulna Water Development Board said, “The project of the World Bank was surveyed in 2013. But as time progressed, the movement of the river changed. As a result, more than six kilometers of land had to be brought underground. Control of the river. It will cost around INR 152 crore.”
The Water Development Board dam is unsustainable for two reasons – substandard work and flawed designs.
“The Dam Development Board must come up with effective designs for sustainable dams and look into corruption in dam renovation work,” he said.
Syed Hassan Imam, Project Manager, Coastal Improvement Project (CEIP-1) and Additional Chief Engineer at BWDB said: “CEIP-1 has secured Rs 3,280 crore financing from the World Bank to protect coastal areas in the country. The project covers 10 precarious lands in the districts of Satkhira, Khulna, Bagherhat, Barjuna, Patuakhali and Pirojpur”.
“Although the project started in 2013, the work started in 2016-2017. Currently, 72% of the project has been completed,” he added.
Engineer Sayed Hassan Imam said, “Twenty dams will be repaired within the framework of the CEIP-2 project. Separate projects will be implemented for the rest. The number of dams will increase in the future. We have proposed the construction of eight more dams.”