Flooding is a common annual phenomenon for 28 lakh people of the northern district of Dinajpur.
But, they are now expecting that their misery will end soon as the Ministry of Water Resources and the Planning Commission have recently approved a proposal for repairing and building embankments in flood-prone areas with CC blocks.
The proposal is awaiting approval from The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec).
Another proposal for re-dredging 59 rivers, canals and water bodies in the region has been sent to the water resources ministry.
Moreover, 14 canals in all the 13 upazilas of the district are being dredged right now.
In 2017, the collapse of the Punorbhoba, the Atrai, the Kakra and the Gorbheshari River embankments caused floods in most areas in the district, claiming 29 lives.
Not only that, 299 educational institutions, 150 kilometres of roads, 80 kilometres of embankments and rice seedlings in 25,000 hectares of land were badly damaged in the floods.
The region becomes flooded even in moderate rain and the resulting increased flow of water from upstream.
This happens because the rivers and canals have become narrow and shallow. Furthermore, the embankments are weak. The people of this district want the government to dredge the rivers and canals to improve navigability and water flow, and to reinforce embankments using concrete cement (CC) blocks.
The re-dredging of 14 canals was started under a project for dredging small rivers, canals and water bodies in all 64 districts in the country in November 2018. It is supposed to be finished by 2020.
Foizur Rahman, executive engineer of the Dinajpur Water Development Board, said, "A project proposal of Tk478 crore has been sent to the water resources ministry to build permanent embankments. Now it is awaiting Ecnec approval. We will start building the embankments once the proposal is approved. The development project proposal for repairing small embankments has also been prepared."
He said another proposal for dredging 59 rivers, canals and water bodies had been sent to the ministry. "We will start the work once the proposal is accepted," he added.
A total of 13 small rivers will be dredged in the aforementioned proposal. The rivers are – Rakkhusini River in Bochaganj upazila; Bhulli River, Norto River and Pathorghata River in Birganj upazila; small Jamuna River in Phulbari upazila; Greenai Karatoya in Parbatipur, Belan River, Ichhamoti River and the Mora Nadi in Khansama; Chiri River in Chirirbandar upazila; Tulsiganga River and Small Tulsiganga River in Hakimpur and Noloshisha River in Nawabganj.
As many as 19 rivers totaling 700 kilometres in length flow through Dinajpur. The district also has 65 canals and 74 beels (water bodies).
Meanwhile, the water development board has started dredging the Ghagra canal, which is very important for draining water from the district. It started the work after removing all illegal structures from the banks of the canal. Around 15 kilometres of the canal will be dredged, and about 50 percent of the work has been completed so far.
Abed Ali of the Gosther Danga area in Dinajpur Sadar upazila said, "We fear floods during the monsoon every year. Even moderate rainfall causes floods because the rivers have become narrow and the embankments are not strong."
Jadob Chandra Roy, general secretary of the Dinajpur unit of Bangladesh Nodi Bachao Andolan (Save the River Movement, Bangladesh), echoed the same. He said, "Dredging the rivers and building strong embankments are urgently needed to prevent floods. We especially need a permanent town protection embankment."