As we develop economically as a nation, we should not forget to develop the lives of people along the river banks
Rivers swallowing up land, causing untold grief and misery to families with homes in those regions, is a familiar phenomenon in Bangladesh. Nowhere is this grief more apparent than in Koyra upazila in Khulna. In the past 11 years, riverbank erosion and other natural calamities have rendered some 16,000 people homeless in Koyra upazila alone.
The overall picture of suffering and displacement in the country, obviously, is much bigger. Countless families have lost all their possessions, their livelihood. Many have had to relocate to the capital, which sometimes turns out to be a case of jumping from the frying pan and into the fire. And while riverbank erosion is a regular occurrence, the number of people affected, alarmingly, is increasing year by year.
Given the many ramifications of the problems, we would do well to take seriously the suggestion put forth by experts to construct tidal damns which can protect the fragile soil along banks, preventing erosion.
Sustainable embankment also means reckoning with changes, such as the changing directions of the rivers, and the fact that capacity and depth of rivers are decreasing with time, causing rivers to overflow even with small amounts of rain.
While that is a more long-term vision, in the meantime, the government must stand by all those who have been affected, and provide humanitarian assistance. People who live in these areas are often unfairly blamed for their own plight, but this a deep socio-economic problem, and certainly not the fault of those who have no choice but to build their homes on such fragile ground.
As we develop economically as a nation, we should not forget to develop the lives of people along the river banks, so that their lives and livelihoods do not get uprooted year after year.