As moderate to heavy rainfall continued across Bangladesh on Thursday, thousands of victims of river erosion were living in shelters or in the houses of friends or relatives after losing their land and livelihood to a rising, hungry river.
Imam Hossain, a prosperous trader in the Char Jujira village in Shariatpur district in central Bangladesh, who owned a cooking gas supply agency, a supermarket, two houses and several acres of farming land, is today a pauper.
“Once we were known as a Zamindar (landlord) here, but now we have become a destitute,” Hossain, who is currently living in the house of a relative, was cited as saying by Efe news.
Since June, when the monsoon season started in Bangladesh, the Padma River — lifeline of Hossain and many other villagers along its banks — devoured a vast area in the district.
According to the local government, at least 5,081 families were displaced in three months. Hossain said his house was located at least 500 metres away from the river bank, but as the rains started the entire area gradually eroded away.
“The river had already eaten up many things from our family. But we could not imagine it would also render us homeless this season,” he said.
The river also devoured a community clinic, two primary schools, two markets, two ferry stations, parts of a large market, the main building of the local hospital, some private clinics, a shrine, a school for handicapped children, and several mosques and temples, said Sanjida Yeasmin, the administration chief of Naria sub-district of Shariatpur.
“Land erosion has been happening over the last eight to 10 years here. But the damage is huge this time as compared to the past years,” she said.
Experts blamed the erosion on the surge of floodwaters from upstream in India and the many hidden islands that disrupted the water flow.
“The erosion is not unusual here. But due to some hidden islands in the river bed and upstream flood water the intensity of the erosion is rising,” said Lutfur Rahman, the Director of Bangladesh River Research institute.
There are about 405 rivers in Bangladesh of which 57 are trans-boundary rivers. Bangladesh shares 54 of the trans-boundary rivers with India and the remaining three with Myanmar.