Wednesday, June 26, 2024

More Aila-hit villages go under waters

Delay in repair of embankments blamed
More areas in the Aila-hit southern districts of Khulna and Satkhira are going under water as the authorities have failed to complete repair of the embankments, badly damaged by the cyclone last year, in time forcing hundreds of villagers to leave their homesteads, reports NewAgebd.
Many people living on the embankments in the worst-affected Dacope, Koyra, Ashashuni and Shyamnagar, fear that vast swathes of the areas could be submerged permanently as canals flowing by the riverside embankments are eroding more lands with the breaches going beyond repair.
‘Water from Chhota Jaliakhali embankment breached by river Dhaki has swamped about 45 houses with waters in some areas rising up to 15 feet and a two-kilometre canal has turned into to a ‘river’ having a width of 150 to 200 feet,’ says 50-year-old Bikash Roy of Chhota Jaliakhali village under Dacope upazila.
Bikash, a boatman who has taken shelter on the Jaliakhali high-embankment, said about half of the village had already gone under water after the cyclone with the breaches and the ‘new river’ getting wider everyday.
‘Many people will have to stay on the embankments for a considerable length of time as the Water Development Board could not begin the repair work in time despite floating tenders several times,’ food and disaster management minister Md Abdur Razzaque told New Age on Thursday.
The authorities will have to wait until next winter to complete repair of major breaches, he said adding that drastic efforts were under way to reconstruct some of them by March to save the areas from being engulfed by waters.
Razzaque, who visited the Aila-affected areas recently, claimed that the vulnerable areas would not disappear, as the authorities would, somehow, raise ‘ring embankments’ to save the lands from erosion and recover the lands now going under waters.
At least 190 persons were killed, scores injured, large tracts of cropland damaged and several thousand houses totally or partially damaged when the cyclone Aila made landfall on the coast.
Asked about the progress in embankment repair, executive engineer of the Water Development Board in Khulna, Md Mosaddeque Hossain said they had forfeited tender security money of six contractors for delay in their work.
He hoped that they would be able to repair all breaches before monsoon.
Small canals have almost merged with the rivers due to breaches in embankments at Chhota Jaliakhali, Majabhuto, Golbunia, Gunari and three points at Nalian under Dacope upazila and Pathorkhali, Kodna, Shikaribari and Padmapukur under Koyra upazila in Khunla.
The width of each of the breaches is now 200 to 300 feet, while the lengths of the canal-turned-rivers are between 0.5 and three kilometres, local officials said, adding that the canals which were merely 10-15 feet wide before the cyclone, had now become 100-250 feet wide, while waist-deep water had risen up to 50 feet.
Besides, more areas are being eroded by rivers that took a serious turn after Aila struck the areas. It may not be possible to reclaim the lands lost to waters after the cyclone, the locals said, adding that the people who had lost their lands and homesteads had lost their livelihoods too.
They say that a large number of people had already left their ancestral villages and more will be forced to leave the areas.
The upazila administrations said they had no statistics of how many people or families had lost their lands and become homeless due to water-logging.
Local representatives said that the number of permanently homeless families could be 1,500.
Officials in Dacope and Paikgachha upazilas blamed failure of Water Development Board in taking measures to reconstruct the embankments for the present situation.
WDB officials in Khulna, however, blamed lack of quality mud for reconstruction the embankments, strong current at the breach points, unavailability of contractors in time, uncertainty over source of funding and contractors’ tendency to appoint inexperienced sub-contractors for the job for the delay.
‘We don’t think the government will be able to repair the embankment at the Jaliakhali point before the monsoon,’ said 41-year old Abbas Gazi of the village.
‘None can give back our homesteads and farmlands…Nalian river has devoured them during Aila’ said Anu Mandal, 28, of village Sutarkhali.
‘Many people of our locality have already gone to towns and cities in search of jobs and shelters and we may have to follow suit as none can reclaim our lands…They are lost for good,’ Anu said.
Talking to New Age, Dacope upazila nirbahi officer Kazi Atiur Rahman said he hoped that all breaches would be repaired before the monsoon.
Koyra UNO in-charge Md Sabur Hossain said he did not think the villages would disappear. ‘The authorities will be able to reconstruct the embankments.’
The cyclone Aila claimed lives of 190 people and 1,50,131 livestock, affecting 39,28,238 people of 9,48,621 families, damaging 6,13,778 houses, crops of 3,23,454 acres of lands and 1,742.53-kilometre stretch of embankments, according to the official record of the disaster management ministry, responsible for coordinating the rehabilitation work in the affected areas.
The ministry has already allocated a fund of Tk 116 crore for embankment repair work.
The government estimated that it would require a funding support of $1,149 million for rehabilitation programme which had been placed before the development partners and donor agencies, said an official, adding that the foreign agencies were yet to make any response.

Courtesy of NewAgebd

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