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10 years after Sidr

Sarankhola people still without embankment

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UNB, Bagerhat :
Ten years after Cyclone Sidr, administrative lethargy has resuled in less than a quarter of the construction of a durable embankment near the Baleshwar River at Sarankhola upazila being completed.
The designated Chinese construction firm has blamed it on the slow land acquisition process by the local administration, which was echoed by the district commissioner. The DC also complained that the Chinese contractors had commenced work even before the land acquisition process was finished.
Locals affected by the cyclone complained that apart from not receiving compensation of any sort, their land has already been acquired by the government and sand-filled without their approval a year back.
Wednesday will mark the 10th anniversary of Cyclone Sidr, which ravaged the embankment in Sarankhola up to 15-16 feet high, taking the lives of 696 people, that too being just the official government figure.
Those who survived its aftermath demanded the construction of a sustainable embankment but their demand remains unmet.
Upon inspection near the Baleshwar River, some erected cement bags were found in some areas of Rajeshwar and Sonatala, including a concrete block at a point in Rajeshwar.
Half a kilometer away from that spot in Gabtola, locals were spotted taking all their belongings and moving away.

Others in makeshift huts near the river's coasts complained that although they received relief aid, no houses were provided.
Forestry plantation initiatives were taken in those areas, making it look like part of the Sundarbans.
Liu Tailiang, manager of the Chinese contractor company, said that they had begun work back in January 2016, with plans to construct a 62km long embankment, but as the designated land owners did not leave till date, they cannot continue with the construction process. They have informed the local authorities about this.
He also added that if everything had gone according to plan, the embankment would have been completed by January next year. It would have been a sturdy embankment, lasting at least 50 years.
Tapan Kumar Biswas, district commissioner, told UNB that although the process of land acquisition was underway, the Chinese contractors had come in and commenced work before the land compensation process had concluded.
In addition, there were some incomplete and unverified lands acquired during the construction of the previous dam, which is slowing the process even more.
Md Abdul Hannan, executive engineer of coastal dam improvement project, phase one (CIP-1) said that the 62km long embankment would cover from Sarankhola till Morrelganj, at a height of 14 feet.
An additional block layer of cement and rock has been set so that it can tackle any cyclone up to 15 feet.
Along with that, the repairing of damaged gates and initiatives to excavate small rivers and canals to tackle river erosion will also be taken.
Saiful Islam, a member of Southkhali union under Sarankhola, complained that his 0.12 acre of land fell under the embankment construction purview, which was taken and sand-filled a year back. But he did not receive any compensation since then.
Monirul Islam, a resident of nearby Bunia village, alleged that he had received an official notice to hand over his land to the authorities as part of the land acquisition process.
But work on his land had begun before he could take away all his family and their belongings, let alone any forms of compensation.
Babul Das, a local teacher and journalist, said that as an aftermath of Sidr, everyone had demanded a sustainable dam rather than relief aid, but they are yet to see the embankments till now.
Abdul Hannan mentioned that this World Bank-financed project stands at a budget of Tk 700 crore and 4 polder packages.
All the construction and repairing processes will be finished in the least amount of time, he informed hopefully.

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