Already the embankment at Dacope upazila (polder no: 32) has breached in two points. Recently, the 80ft to 90ft portion of the embankment at the Brihaspati Bazar area in Kalabagi village collapsed completely due to river erosion. When cyclone Yaas hit the area in May, the fragile embankment collapsed partially. Later the damaged part was renovated with the use of geo bags.

Currently at least six points -- Kalabagi, Brihaspati Bazar, Kalibari, Gunari, Kamarkhola and Jaliakhali -- are in danger. Local people fear that if the vulnerable embankment parts are not repaired soon, breaching would devastate the area as in the case of super cyclone Aila. They are passing their days in anxiety as cracks are developing in the embankment even before the project is completed. Related officials have estimated around 4 kilometre of the embankment are vulnerable to collapse.

According to local people and BWDB officials, the ‘sustainable’ embankment is being constructed in the middle of the Sundarbans and a nearby locality. When cyclone Amphan hit the area last year, one of the embankment’s parts at Fakirer Kona area got damaged and the Shibsa River and the Sutarkhali River merged. As a consequence, the mighty Shibsa now overflows into the Sutarkhali. Strong currents from the Shibsa, after being diverted from the Sundarbans, hit the Brihaspati Bazar part of the embankment, making it vulnerable to collapse.

BWDB sources said, the ‘sustainable’ embankment has been built to protect two polders (no: 32, 33) in Dacope upazila. With World Bank funding, BWDB is implementing this Coastal Embankment Improvement Project (phase 1).

Launched in 2015, the Tk 32.8 billion-project was scheduled to be completed by 2018. Under the project, polder number: 32 got a new 50km-long embankment. Improvement of the embankments, construction of alternative embankment, culverts and sluicegates, and river engineering are the major components of the project.

The project implementation is not finished yet. However, renovation of the embankment is nearly completed. Other work in the project including construction of culverts is currently underway. The project tenure has been extended to June of 2022 as the Covid pandemic delayed completion of the work by June this year.

Executive engineer of the project Ashraful Alam said, the river course has changed compared to the time when a feasibility study was conducted in 2013. Following the feasibility study, only 2km of the embankments was built in the project area for river engineering. "But the present situation suggests that we need to build additional 4km long embankment for the purpose," he said. "Our proposal in this regard has already been approved. We hope we can start building the protective walls around the danger zones from November this year."

* The original report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman.