Vol. 5 Num 418 Sat. July 30, 2005  

Gazikhali river reborn
UNDP project creates new opportunity for prosperity in Saturia, Dhamrai

They call the Gazikhali a 'blessed river'. The river has created a new opportunity to attain economic prosperity in remote villages of Saturia in Manikganj and Dhamrai in Dhaka after its excavation by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The small river remained dry most of the time of the year except the rainy season for the last 15 years. It was due to accumulation of silt in the riverbed for a long period. There had been little water for irrigation in the dry season. Even people could not wash their cattle due to lack of water. They did the job using tube-well water. During monsoon, the surrounding areas got flooded in moderate rain resulting in severe damage to crops and vegetables.

Ganoshasthaya Kendra, a major non-governmental organisation (NGO), took an initiative to resolve the perennial problem of about 1,50,000 people of the area. Being a partner NGO of UNDP, Ganoshasthaya Kendra submitted a project proposal of merely Tk 57 lakh to the global organisation to excavate the 11-kilometre river flowing through Dhankora and Saturia Sadar unions in Manikganj and Gangutia of Dhamrai in Dhaka. UNDP allocated fund for the project under its Cash for Work (CFW) programme. The project work began in the middle of May. Within two-and-a-half months, Ganoshasthaya Kendra implemented the project with the help of associated organisations like Development Centre International (DCI), Dinmojur Kalyan Samity (DKS), Socio-Economic Development Society (SEDS) and others through involvement of local community.

While visiting several sites at Kaulipara, Brahmanbari and Barobaria in Dhaka and Manikganj districts on Thursday, UNDP assistant resident representative (ARR) Dilruba Haider saw the river capable of providing necessary water for fish culture, duck rearing, irrigation and other economic activities. The happy villagers told her they hope for a good yield of crops and vegetables this year. The river will be able to sustain the economic activities of the entire area, they told her.

At Kaulipara, the Gazikhali joined a tributary of the Dhaleswari. At this point a dam was erected by dumping sand filled plastic sacks on the river bed. The sacks are being protected by big plastic sheets. When asked, Ganoshasthaya Kendra field supervisor Jolly termed it an appropriate technique. She told seven such dams were erected along the 11-kilometre long river. She showed another such dam at Brahmanbari in Saturia. 'The dams will help the river to preserve sufficient water in the dry season while the excess water of the rainy season will cross into the Bangshai river automatically,' told Jolly. The dam will also serve as a bridge between the two banks of the river, she explained.

However, the excavated Gazikhali will also serve important environmental purposes. It will protect people from the scourge of flood.

In the meantime, enthusiastic villagers have made preparations to embark on economic pursuits like fish culture and duck rearing. They also formed development committees for its future maintenance work.

During her trip, UNDP official Dilruba told this correspondent, the CFW programme has created a scope for income earning in the lean season while women labour force finds an opportunity to work in this project.

She said the aim of the project is to provide assistance to flood stricken poor people, with particular focus on women and the most vulnerable people. The project was initiated in December 2004. Now it covers 24 districts, 61 upazilas and 500 unions. Its activities include mound extension, homestead plinth area raising and maintenance, rural road maintenance, road cum embankment maintenance, rural market place improvement, cluster village development, school, college, madrasa ground raising, mosque, temple, graveyard ground raising, canal, irrigation drainage excavation, pond excavation and flood shelter raising. The activities will also reduce the risk of flood in future, the UNDP official added.

The Gazikhali during excavation, left, and after excavation, right. PHOTO: STAR