Saturday, November 17, 2018
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Naria erodes away as Padma cuts a path of destruction

  • Mostafigur Rahman, Back from Naria bdnews24.com
    Published: 2018-09-14 15:17:50 BdST

River erosion has continued for the last few years but the Padma has become terribly destructive this monsoon and engulfed at least two square kilometres of land in Naria Upazila in the central district of Shariatpur.

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Muktarer Char, Kedarpur Union and a huge swathe of land in Naria Municipality have almost lost their existence to the continuous erosion of the river. At least 5,000 families in the areas have lost their households and become refugees, said Upazila Nirbahi Officer or UNO Sanjida Yasmin.

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Amirjan, more than 100 years old, became a widow 25 years ago. Her husband’s small house was her only inheritance. The Padma devoured it three days back, leaving her with no place to take refuge. “I have never seen such ferocity of the river Padma,” said Amirjan, a resident of Mulfatganj.

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Amirjan, more than 100 years old, became a widow 25 years ago. Her husband’s small house was her only inheritance. The Padma devoured it three days back, leaving her with no place to take refuge. “I have never seen such ferocity of the river Padma,” said Amirjan, a resident of Mulfatganj.

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Shaheda, another resident of Mulfatganj, has dismantled her wooden house and shifted some of her belongings to her neighbour’s yard to survive the river erosion. At present, she is living under the open sky. Her husband used to earn their living by working as a day-labourer but Shaheda is anxious about their future as they lost everything.

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Moni Begum has been living in her father’s house with her two children after her husband divorced her. She had to work as a domestic help to feed her children. Now that the river has engulfed her father’s house, and even the houses of those families Moni used to work for, Moni has nothing but an uncertain future.

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Mashan Chandra Das was born in the house in Naria. He has dismantled his house as the erosion caused the river to come near his house. He does not know where to go to live with his family.

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Nazma Begum from Kedarpur also lost her house to the Padma seven days ago and took refuge at the yard of a neighbour with her children. Now that place has become vulnerable to river erosion too. “We learn that those foreigner Rohingyas are getting so much of help but no has come to us,” Nazma expressed her frustration.

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A big part of the house owned by Seema Das in Daspara Kedarpur went into the Padma about three days back. A small part of the house at its back still stood on the ground. Seema took refuge in daily prayers to save the last remaining part.

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Tamijuddin, an elderly person, has never envisioned such a disaster in life. There is nothing but 150 feet deep water now where his house once stood.

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Mujibur Rahman in Kedarpur works in a garment factory who rushed back home, learning about the river erosion. Most of the land he owned eroded away before he could reach home. This is not the first time he lost his home to the river, but he lost his ancestral home five years back to the river and settled in Kedarpur. He resigned himself to his fate after losing his life-time savings.

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The Padma has also begun to devour the Naria Upazila Health Complex, the only government institution with 50 beds for patients to provide health services to the 250,000 people.

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Apart from agriculture, expatriate remittance is another source of income for the people in Naria. Many families have one or two of their members living in Italy or in other European countries. The river erosion is also destroying the high-rise buildings that were constructed with the money sent by the migrant workers.

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A number of houses, bridges, roads, culverts along with more than 400 shophouses and business houses went into the river within a week. Many of the locals are shifting their houses and shophouses to survive.

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The affected families have taken refuge in the 39 cyclone centres. They have received rice and other dry food. The government has also moved to provide money and tin to rehabilitate the affected families.

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The locals have been demanding necessary measures to prevent the river erosion as most of the agricultural lands went into the Padma in the last few years. The government had approved a Tk 10 billion project in January to handle the issue. But river erosion struck again in July before the project could be started.

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Bangladesh Water Development Board in Shariatpur has placed 10,000 bags in the river as an emergency measure, it said. It has tamed the current to an extent but the erosion has not stopped. Authorities say they cannot start the project to save the river banks unless the monsoon water abates.