Relentless Garai erosion leaves many people homeless in Jhenaidah

A man sits and watches erosion of Garai river in JhenaidahUNB

Villagers in Shailakupa upzila of Jhenaidah district are fighting apparently a losing battle against the onslaught of Garai river.

Over the years the river has swallowed homesteads and croplands of hundreds of families -from well-off to poor- leaving them homeless.

Many have taken shelter in other people’s lands. Some could still buy new lands with whatever money they had.

Abdul Malek Mandal, a resident of Krishnanagar village, is one of them.

In past few years he shifted places for at least seven times to escape serious erosion by the river.

Once he had a tin-shed house, 10 bighas of crop land but now he has become a pauper.

“The demonic river has taken all I had,” sighed Malek. “There was a time when I used to help others. Now I seek help from others.”

There seems to be no respite from river erosion as the residents of Uttarpara in Krishnagar village of Shailkupa upazila in Jhenaidah district have been suffering a lot as the Garai river turned turbulent, rendering several hundred people homeless.

Like Malek, many people have lost their houses and land to the river.

Abdur Rahim, another resident of Krishnanagar village, has to shift his house in six places. Now he is living his life by working as a day labourer.

Once 40 families lived in Krishnagar village but now only five families are living there. The river erosion not only shattered their dreams but also made many people poor.

People living in the villages were leading a prosperous life as the Garai river was a blessing for them but as years passed on, the river became aggressive and a vast tract of lands was swallowed by it.

Many people have been displaced from their ancestral lands as the erosion takes a serious turn in the village, forcing people to take shelter in another place.

During a recent visit to the river bank villages, in Sarutia, Dhalharchandra and Hakimpur unions of Shailkupa upazila, this correspondent found that fear of being homeless by erosion has gripped villagers of three unions.

A crack has developed in the two-km long flood protection dam from Bororia to the Krishnagar area, making Madla and Khulumbaria of Hakimpur union, Kashinathpur, Mazdia, Ulubaria, Malithia, Charpara and Langalbadh Bazar in Dhalharachandra union at risk of erosion.

Talking to the residents living along the river bank, they said they are passing a sleepless night as the river may take away their belongings anytime.

The Uttarpara of Krishnanagar village has been eroded while Majherpara of the village is at risk of erosion, they said. If the local administration would not take any steps immediately, then it will go into the gorge of the river anytime.

Mahmudul Haque, chairman of Sarutia Union, said, “A permanent embankment is needed here for the protection of the residents. I have contacted the local administration but to no avail.”

Pratha Pratim Sheel, upazila assistant land officer, said it is the jurisdiction of the local Water Development Board.

Bikarna Das, an official of upazila unit Water Development Board, said, “Last year, they worked in Bororia area and they are waiting for the approval of the construction work of 4-km long embankment along Krishnagar and Langalbadh area, involving Tk 2.35 billion (235 crore). After getting the approval the work will begin soon.”