Padma in a rage


Syed Shemul Parvez :
Erosion by the river Padma has taken a serious turn in Naria and Zanjira upazilas of Shariatpur district. Millions of people of both the upazilas are spending sleepless nights on the bank of the river.
According to sources, around 7,000 families of both Naria and Zanjira upazilas have been rendered homeless in the last two years. The fuming river has already devoured several thousand acres of land, houses, government roads and educational institutions.
They said, Naria Bazar, municipal building, Molfatganj Madrasah, many schools and colleges, and various government and non-governmental structures in the Naria upazila are in fear of collapse anytime.
At this moment, erosion by the Padma in the upazila has become severe. Around 5,000 families of the upazila have become landless and homeless. Health Complex will be removed as soon as possible due to serious erosion, the sources added.
Around 500 business establishments and 100 multi-story buildings of Molfatganj, Sadhurbarbazar, Charnaria and Muktakarchar of Naria upazila and Konderchar, khejurtola, Pachokahar kandi, borokandi and Madborkandi of Zanjira upazila have been removed from the two upazilas. Now Bilaspur union is under a tremendous threat.
Meanwhile, the families who lost their shelter are now staying on the bank of the Padma under the open sky. Though on January 2, the ECNEC passed one thousand 97 crore taka bill for setting up an embankment, there is no progress in the work yet.
When contacted, a local organizer demanding 'Save Naria , Want Embankment' Md Toriqul Islam Rubel, said that  initially the government allocated around Tk. 7 crore for falling 'Geo Bag' sand to decrease the erosion of the furious Padma but there is no benefit. It is learnt that the authorities are supposed to fall down at least 2,000 Geo Bag sands everyday but they are falling only 600/700 bags. That is why it couldn't make any help to protect the lands.
Locals claimed that the river began eroding its right bank after the river training project of the Padma Bridge began at Mawa, and it has sped up this year.
Dr Nazrul Islam, former chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC) and renowned expert of Urban and Water Development, said that river erosion is a common phenomenon for our country. It has been remaining since long back in this 'Bha Dip' (Deltaic).
Dr Islam said it is not true that erosion of the Padma increased because of building the Padma Bridge. It may have any indirect influence but the authorities concerned should find out the fact and take instant measures for river dredging.  
Swapan Kumar Das, Chief Scientific Officer of the River Research Institute, Faridpur, told this correspondent, "I don't know why the river is eroding the right bank. All I can tell you is that the river has changed its course."
Safiul Islam Sheikh, Engineer of the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), said there is no connection between the erosion and the river training work. We have already built half of the Sureshwar-Wapdha Embankment to protect the land and we will start construction of the rest of the embankment soon, he added.
Over the last few months, more than 4,000 families of five unions of Naria upazila have lost their homes, said Sanzida Yesmin, the Upazila Nirbahi Officer
Mominul Haq Sarkar, Deputy Executive Director of the Centre for Environment and Geographical Information Service (CEGIS), the agency that predicts river erosion, said they observed that the erosion had increased.
"But without conducting a study, it is not possible to say whether it is an impact of the river training," he added.
Traders of Mulfatganj Bazar said there are 1,500 businesses establishments in the market and all of them were now under threat.
Nur Hossain Dewan, President of Mulfatganj Bazar Businessmen Association, said about 10,000 people would be affected if the bazaar was devoured entirely
Local inhabitant Enamul Haque, who was among the victims, told this correspondent that a few days back the Padma has eaten up his house. The government should declare the area as disaster zone, he added.
Inhabitant of Molfatgonj , Hafez Mawlana Mohammad Ali said, Mulfatganj has a long long tradition and history, especially for Islamic scholar and spiritual persons. Molfatganj Madrash is one of the leading, ancient and famous Islamic educational institute in the country but we are going to loss our pride. "We can't do anything, but only cry."