Several hundred people from about a dozen villages in Sreepur and Mohammadpur upazilas of Magura recently lost their homes and cornfields due to the erosion by the Gorai and Madhumati rivers.
These affected people held unplanned sand extraction from the river responsible for the erosion. The district administration, however, claims that sand extraction has no relation with river erosion.
Shimul Mia, a local of Harekrishnapur village in Mohammadpur upazila, said the government receives the revenue of only a few hundred thousand yearly from the sand extraction project. But the erosion of rivers continues for years due to sand extraction. The people of this area spend sleepless nights.
According to the local people and Magura Water Development Board (MWBD), a good portion of lands of Char Jhama, Harekrishnapur, Maheshpur, Deuli, Dikmajhi and Bholanathpur villages in Mohammadpur upazila have disappeared in Madhumati river.
In Sreepur, people of several areas including Badanpur, Tikarbila and Gangaramkhali have been affected by the erosion of Gorai river. Locals claim, hundreds of acres of land and homes have been washed away by the river.
General secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) Sharif Jamil told to Prothom Alo that a survey is needed on the water flow of river before the extraction of sand. If the sand is extracted without such a survey, erosion will be inevitable.
According to MWDB, a total of Tk 35 million has been spent on projects in Mohammadpur and Sreepur over the last two years to prevent erosion.
Executive engineer of MWDB Sarwar Jahan told Prothom Alo that the river benefits from planned sand extraction. However, unplanned extraction of sand can lead to river erosion.
According to district administration sources, there are three sand zones in Magura district for lease. These are Rajdharpur and Ghasial Balu Mahal in Sreepur upazila and Jhama Balu Mahal in Mohammadpur.
Rajdharpur Balu Mahal is located in the vicinity of Gorai bridge which raises concern as to whether the sand extraction causes damage to the bridge.
However, Ashraful Alam, deputy commissioner of Magura and chairman of the district sand management committee, told Prothom Alo that “erosion occurs when the flow of the river is obstructed. Experts believe that the erosion is increasing as large chars are formed due to siltation. Sand is not lifted by excavating the bottom of the river. The silt that is coming with the current is being lifted as sand. It actually reduces the erosion. We have seen that the erosion taking place in Mohammadpur and Sreepur is not due to the sand extraction, it is due to some other reasons.”
Member of the National Human Rights Commission and the former home secretary Kamal Uddin told Prothom Alo that unplanned sand extraction is causing river erosion all over the country. Homes, crop lands and resources of a large number of people are being disappeared in rivers. This is a clear violation of human rights. The local administration should look into the matter impartially and take steps to stop such activities, he said.
This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by NH Sajjad