Project to save Karnaphuli in limbo as its cost is yet to reviewed23 January 2023
Bangladesh Water Development Board's project to save the Karnaphuli has been in limbo as the water resources ministry is yet to review the estimated cost in line with the government's cost containment policy. The BWDB said river erosion in Chattogram's Boalkhali upazila keeps wreaking havoc on the lives of at least 120,000 people, and that number would gradually rise if the project is not implemented soon.
In July last year, the government rolled out a mix of austerity measures for development projects in the face of strained foreign currency reserves, elevated global and domestic inflation, and continued tensions surrounding the Russia-Ukraine war. The project, to be implemented by the BWDB, was scheduled to begin in July last year and be completed by June 2025 with full government funding.
According to the proposal, a 7.4km-long sustainable dam will be built, while 2.4km-long dams will be built on both banks of the river. In addition to those, dams will be built to guard the banks of five branch canals of the river. The board's data showed that due to rapid erosion, 150 small industrial structures, 45 roads, 20 bridge-culverts, 3,750 homes, 140 km of electric lines, five markets, 12 different public and private educational and religious institutions, six different public and private buildings, and 2,500 hectares of agricultural land are at risk.
If long-lasting dams are not constructed to stop river erosion, it will worsen the situation and the people will suffer more. At least 35 of the 140 different river species are no longer found there. On the other hand, a list created by the Chattogram District Administration, in response to a 2010 High Court order, said the Karnaphuli has fallen victim to 2,112 grabbers along its 40km-long banks, from Kalurghat to Patenga. The river is the lifeline of the city's economy and protecting it from pollution is the responsibility of the government. We ask the government not to escape their responsibility as we have no alternative Karnaphuli.