Vol. 5 Num 701 Sat. May 20, 2006  

Turning to God as govt inactive
Thousands join mass prayer for protection against erosion in Gaibandha after agitation fell on deaf ears of WDB officials

Thousand of erosion victims of Shaghata upazila gatherted on the bank of Jamuna and joined a prayer seeking mercy from the almighty to same them from further erosion as government remained inactive to control it.

The mass prayer was part of a day-long progamme that included Quran Khwani and Milad Mafil They said they decided to hold the programmes after failing to draw attention of Water Development Board (WDB) authorities and the district administration. Earlier, erosion victim in Shaghata upazila staged demonstrations, brought out processions, ventilated their grievances at a press conference and formed a human chain demanding precautionary measure to stop the rapacious erosion along the western bank of Jamuna river. They also handed over a memorandum to the water resourcem.

Locals and the victims said that in about a month 22 villages in five unions were badly affected by erosion, rendering over 13,410 families shelterless. The Jamuna devoured over 500 acres of cultivable land and many structures including houses and educational institutions. The affected unions are Shaghata, Ghuridaha, Haldia, Jumarbari and Bharatkhali.

In last one week, erosion hit eleven villages, forcing about 4,300 families to shift to safer places.

The river is now only 500 yards from the police station. The erosion continues but the local WDB is yet to take any initiative to control it despite repeated appeals, they said while talking tot this correspondent.

The local people in Shaghata upazila have formed an All Party Development Parishad to launch a tougher agitation against inaction by the authorities.

Hundreds of people together led by the five Union Parishad chairmen and members on May 15 brought out a procession that paraded the streets of Gaibandha town and formed a human chain. They laid a siege to the WDB office, handed over a memorandum to the water resources minister through the Gaibandha Water Development Board Executive engineer and narrated their plight at a press conference held at Gaibandha Press Club.

Earlier, WDB undertook an erosion control programme at Munshir Hat involving Tk 60 lakh but it is yet to be implemented. The project, if implemented now, will not be effective as the situation is worse, a UP chairman told this correspondent.

In last three days, 130 families lost homes due to erosion at Kalurpara village in Haldia union, said Shah Newaz Mandol Bablu, convener of Shaghata Unnayan Parishad.

"We submitted a fresh proposal to control the erosion in Shaghata", said the WDB executive engineer when contated.

Union Parishad Chairman Ataur Rahman claimed that several thousand concrete blocks are lying at Munshirhat but WDB is dumping those to stop the erosion. "We will go for tougher agitation soon if the authorities do not take initiative right now to stop the erosion along the western bank of Jamuna", said convener of the Shaghata All Party Parishad.

The erosion victims have taken shelter on embankments and roads, passing days under the open sky, said another UP chairman Ekramul Hossain.

A mass prayer was held in Shaghata upazila on Thursday seeking divine blessings to save the area from erosion by Jamuna. PHOTO: STAR