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Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) officials monitoring the repairing work are disconcerted as sand was used instead of soil.

The agency sent a letter to the contractor several times but no steps have been taken as yet.

Under the impact of cyclone Yaas in May this year, a 45-metre stretch of the flood control embankment of Shakbria river broke at the village Gotir Gheri of Uttar Bedkasi in Koyra upazila. This broken portion hasn’t been repaired in the past three months.

With the embankment remaining damaged, saline water from the sea submerges entire village twice a day during high tide. People have taken shelter on the road. They are living in inhuman conditions in makeshift shelters built with polythene and leaves.

Visiting the area on 30 August, it was found sand being dumped on the both sides of the damaged part of the embankment. There was an excavator standing idle on one side, with no one operating it. On the northern end, earth was placed on either side the embankment with sand dumped in the middle.

A dredger was seen lifting sand from Shakbaria river beside the Sundarbans, opposite the damaged part of the embankment. Locals said this sand would be used to repair the embankment.

Work is underway on the both ends of the embankment but not at the broken portion. As a result, water enters the locality during high tide. This correspondent was in the area for over an hour, but couldn’t meet any people involved with repairing the embankment for comment.

According to locals, the embankment will break in the next one or two years again since it’s built with sand. When everyone will start recovering from the damage inflicted by cyclone Yaas, everything will be washed away again.

The same happened after cyclone Aila in 2009. The storm broke the embankment at the same spot. The area had been under water for two years.

The embankment broke at the same spot after 12 years. The people who had struggled and began life anew, lost everything all over again.

BWDB sources said the disaster management department is implementing the embankment repair work financed by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). M/S Aradhana Enterprise, a contractor firm from Dhaka, secured the tender to repair the 1,200-metre dam at a cost of Tk 33,055,000.

As per the tender, the damaged portion of the embankment will have to be repaired with earth. Besides, some sandbags will also be thrown there. Once the repairs are over, sandbags will have to be placed on the banks of the river to strengthen it.

The contractor took up the work on 3 June this year and the project deadline was 11 September. More than three months have passed but the work hasn’t been done as yet.

This part of Koyra falls under the jurisdiction of BWDB Satkhira Operation and Maintenance Division-2. The agency has sent letter to the contractor firm regarding the quality and slow pace of the work.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, executive engineer of the division Md Rashidur Rahman said a letter has been sent to the contractor firm repeatedly instructing them to follow the terms of the tender instead of using sand and to complete the work within the shortest possible time. Yet, no progress is made on work and the matter frustrates everyone, he added.

Md Abdur Sabur from Satkhira is the local representative of the contractor firm repairing the embankment. He claimed sand is being lifted to fill the sacks. Besides, sand and earth would be used in the embankment because a sufficient amount of earth was not available.

When asked whether the embankment would last long, he declined comment. Asked again on sand extraction, he threw a counter question saying, “If sand is not lifted from here, from where we will get it?”

Speaking to Prothom Alo over mobile phone, project director and joint secretary of the disaster management department Subrata Paul Chowdhury, “The divisional commissioner of Khulna spoke to me about the matter and I have also talked to the contractor firm M/S Aradhana Enterprise. Now work will be carried out as per the project schedule or tender.”

Sundarbanst at risk

Gotir Gheri village is located on one side of Shakbaria village and the Sundarbans is on the other side.

Dredgers are extracting sand from the river posing a threat to the Sundarbans. There is feat that this will cause river erosion on the side of the mangrove forest and damage to bio-diversity.

Abu Naser Mohsin, divisional forest officer (DFO) of Sundarbans west forest division, said it is completely illegal to extract sand near the Sundarbans. It might cause severe damage to the forest. He has no knowledge about the sand extraction from that location. However, if evidence is found, legal action would be taken, the official added.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna

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