Rights groups have urged the government to take immediate measures to build embankments on the coastal areas of Bangladesh to protect people and land from sea level rise and tidal surges.
A human chain was organised in front of the National Press Club yesterday by 16 coastal area rights organisations to call for embankments in endangered coastal areas.
The event was held in remembrance of the super cyclone Marian that hit the Chittagong coast on April 29, 1991, killing around 150,000 people.
Speakers at the event criticised the government for “over-emphasising on infrastructure projects like flyovers and four-lane highways” to ensure export-led economic growth, while on the other hand ignoring critical infrastructure like coastal embankments.
The activists urged the government to put in its own funds to build the embankments instead of waiting around for foreign funds.
“The coastal areas are still unsafe. The flooding and loss of land is forcing people to migrate to cities where they become slum dwellers and work in low-income jobs like house maids, labourers, garments workers or rickshaw pullers,” said Rezaul Karim Chowdhury from COAST Trust.
The government was paying no heed to the loss of land which was a threat to the country’s food security, he said.
“This is a sort of exploitation by the elites and ruling classes of Bangladesh of the coastal population,” he added.
“We must invest our resources to protect the coastal people and lands before anything else,” Dhaka University pro-vice chancellor Dr Shahid Akhter Hossain said at the event.
He also said that the government has the capacity to build sustainable embankments in the coastal area with its own resources, but there is hardly any political goodwill behind the issue.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury also blamed “international NGOs and donor-funded consultants” saying they were using coastal vulnerability issues for aid marketing.