Mend and maintain embankments


No matter how strong a chair may be, if one of its legs is broken, even just an inch, the chair is rendered useless. Until that leg is mended, the chair cannot be used.

It’s like that with an embankment. No matter how high the embankment may be, no matter how sturdy and strong, if even just 10 metres of a five kilometre embankment is weak and flood waters begin to seep in, then things can go out of control. In other words, it just takes 10 metres of damage to destroy the protection capacity of the entire five kilometres. In order for it to be functional, the entire embankment must be intact. It cannot be damaged anywhere.

It is alarming that 8000 km of embankment in the country’s coastal regions is at risk. Many parts of the embankments were destroyed during the cyclone Sidr in 2007 and the cyclone Aila in 2009. Parts of the embankments were washed away but have not been repaired since. That means the entire coastal region is at risk.

When the cyclone Fani recently struck, the vulnerability of the embankments became starkly evident. The embankments broke in at least 10 places, with water entering and flooding the areas there. Crops were destroyed and the fish cultivators faced huge losses.

According to the relief and disaster management ministry, the cyclone Mora in 2017 damaged around 22 kms of embankment. Other than that, the cyclones Sidr, Aila and Komen destroyed around 19 kms of embankment and repairs on these have still not been completed.

According to official records, there are about 19,000 km of embankment in the country, about half of which are in the coastal regions. There is long-term damage when the coastal regions are flooded. When saline water inundates the areas, salinity renders the land unfit for crops for the next few years. Breeding of fresh water fish is hampered as well as that of certain insects. It is imperative that the embankments be repaired and such flooding prevented.

It is a matter of concern that allocations for embankment maintenance and repairs are always inadequate. The Water Development Board does not let the local people go near the embankments under their jurisdiction. However, it has been seen that social forestation or even settlements on the embankments can serve to strengthen these structures. The local people will want to protect the embankments then in their own interests. That is why the link between the protection of the embankments and the interests of the own people should be strengthened.

In our country we have the tendency to take all sorts of preparations before a disaster strikes, but once it is over, we forget all about the calamity. This has to change. Then again, the government is reluctant in providing adequate allocations for the embankments. All sorts of projects are taken up every year in the name of constructing ring embankments and repairing the embankments, renovations, etc and these funds are often misappropriated. When the rains come, these embankments are washed away. Then there are fresh allocations for fresh embankments. Year after years fund are thus washed away in the name of renovating coastal embankments. This mindset must also change.

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