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VOL 21 NO 140 REGD NO DA 1589 | Dhaka, Thursday,, April 3 2014
Posted : 03 Apr, 2014 00:00:00 AA-A+
Drawing up a regional plan to check river erosion

River erosion is one of the deadliest natural disasters that some of the member-countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) like Bangladesh and India face today. Its consequences are catastrophic in both the countries.  But Bangladesh being much smaller than India in size (it's even smaller than some of the latter's states), damage that is caused to its fertile lands and human habitations is whopping. It is in recognition of this that the Delhi-based SAARC Disaster Management Centre has chosen Dhaka as the venue for its week-long training programme on 'River Erosion and Embankment Safety Management in South Asia Region 2014' which began at Dhaka University on March 29. At the inaugural session, experts have called for a regional approach to tackle erosion of river banks.

It augurs well that 26 experts from the SAARC countries have been taking part in the week-long training course on the subject. River erosion has already cost Bangladesh heavily. It has caused serious damage to its fast-shrinking fertile lands and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless. Statistics say more than 250,000 people in Bangladesh become victims of river erosion every year. The annual economic loss, according to a rough reckoning, stands at Tk 10 billion. An Asian Development Bank (ADB) report said river erosion makes at least 1,00,000 people landless every year in Bangladesh. Most alarming is the fact that over 1,000 hectares of lands of the country are lost to rivers every year. Only two rivers, the Jamuna and the Padma have engulfed 156,780 hectares of land since 1973, and 2,842 hectares of farmlands are likely to disappear into these rivers in the not too distant future. According to a projection, the country will lose one-fourth of its total cultivable land by 2020 if erosion is not checked.

Erosion of river banks has already caused enormous socio-economic and environmental problems. At the national level, it is hindering economic growth and is leading to impoverishment and marginalisation. At the household level, it is leading to malnutrition, poverty and miseries.

The authorities in Bangladesh appear to be helpless in containing river erosion. The Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) has so far used concrete blocks placed on the banks to stop erosion. But according to experts, if the blocks are not of the required size and strength, these will be just a wastage of money when considered in the context of dreadful strength of the river currents and waves that cut banks not along the surface but much below where no concrete block is placed. Most often it is reported that blocks have been washed away during rainy season as these did in case of Chandpur.

Bangladesh will gain a lot if it seriously takes note of deliberations of 26 expert-level participants in the training course. The country can also seek SAARC cooperation for a lasting solution of the river erosion problem in view of its gradual shrinkage of fertile lands and ever increasing population depending on lands. Huge expenditures on use of boulders or other short-cut methods will simply go down the drain if scientific solution is not found at the earliest. The experts at the training course can give appropriate guidelines and help forge a SAARC plan to end the curse once for all.

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Drawing up a regional plan to check river erosion | EDITORIAL | The financial express