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09th-Sep-2018

Better management is essential to control devastation of mighty Padma

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AT Naria of Shariatpur, 20km from the Padma Bridge construction site, the Padma river has changed abruptly. Once relatively calm and quiet in the area, it turned into an all-devouring river in just a few years. People there are on edge as the Padma changed its course and has been gobbling up village after village, making many well-off people penniless overnight, as per a local daily report.
Over the last few months alone, more than 4,000 families of five unions of Naria upazila have lost their homes. The hungry tide now threatens to swallow the 200-year-old Mulfatganj Bazar in Naria municipality area. The river started eroding its right bank five to six years ago and people have become worried as the erosion has reached the municipality area. Even the government health facility was abandoned with the main building only a few feet away from being devoured.  
It is the duty of the Water Development Board to stop erosion. This can be done temporarily using embankments as a permanent solution or by using textile or sandbags for a temporary solution. The Padma, Ganges and Jamuna have taken away around 150,000 hectares in the last four decades -- almost 5000 to 6000 hectares are lost every year.
In the last 40 years or so the deposition has been only 53,000 hectares, just a little over one-third of the erosion. Every year, the government has to allocate a large chunk of the annual development budget for construction, repair and maintenance of riverbank embankments to save establishments from erosion and floods. About 1,209 km of embankment were built and 15,358 km repaired in the 2014-15 financial year (April to March), for example. In the same period, 4,540 flood control structures were built.
Bangladesh may be able to reduce this expense significantly. The Bangladesh Centre for Environmental and Geographical Information System (CEGIS) project may be heralding the beginning of change. The erosion warning the scientists have been providing for the last few years allow better disaster management, which could easily pinpoint disaster points and thus better protect our land -- at a cheaper cost.