Embankment vital for coastal area
Bangladesh is considered one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters in the world. Admittedly, six out of the 10 deadliest cyclones in history have formed in the Bay of Bengal, while around 80% of the world's cyclone deaths occur in this region. Therefore, about five crore people in 19 coastal districts of Bangladesh are at extreme risk. In addition to that, cyclone is occurring more repeatedly in the region, currently.
In order to protect the coastal people from deadly cyclone, in the 1960s, 139 embankments were constructed. These embankments were built in 13 costal districts covering an area of 5,810 kilometres. After that, no new coastal embankment was built, rather the government only did repair work on the embankments. Currently, the dilapidated embankments are no longer capable of saving the coastal areas from the natural disasters. Consequently, millions of people in the coastal areas are living in constant fear of cyclones and other natural calamities.
According to Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) sources, most of the country's embankments have been damaged due to successive cyclones, including the catastrophic cyclones of 1970 and 1991. Super cyclone Sidr alone destroyed 2,341 km of embankments. In 2009, cyclone Aila destroyed 683 km of embankments.
However, these coastal dams expired long ago and they are not able to take the pressure of frequent cyclones. Because of no viable protection, a vast amount of land is being eroded. Agricultural production is also being reduced due to salt water intrusion through the damaged embankment. Many people have started fish farming by cutting through dams and introducing salt water in the land. As a result, both the dams and the land have been ruined.
In order to alleviate the suffering of the coastal people and protect bio diversity in the region BWDB plans eight new embankments. Coastal Embankment Improvement Project (CEIP-1) has been given a fund of Tk3,280crore by the World Bank to protect the coastal areas of the country. The project covers 10 risky polders in Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Barguna, Patuakhali and Pirojpur districts.
However, the BWDB undertook a project worth Tk 300crore to build a sustainable embankment on the Banshkhali coast of Chattogram. Regretfully, cracks appeared in that embankment before the completion of the construction work. Local residents pointed to irregularities in fund management for the issue. Experts opine that the embankment of the BWDB is not sustainable for two reasons--substandard work and faulty designs.
Truly, ignoring corruption in such vital projects in a disaster prone country is suicidal. Therefore BWDB should look into corruption in embankment renovation works. In addition to that initiating new projects and coming up with effective designs for sustainable dams are vital.