Dwip Azad, Noakhali

 People of Hatiya are eagerly waiting to see the inauguration of construction of protection dam within this month, after unabated erosion caused by the Meghna River gobbled up vast areas of the island upazila in Noakhali last year.

On January 27, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader and State Minister for Water Resources Enamul Huq Shameem at a public rally in Hatiya said that construction of the much-awaited protection dam would start on February 15.

Mentionable, wrecking havoc on the dwellers of the island, wrath of the mighty river has already devoured hundreds of acres of farmland, dozens of homesteads, educational institutions, mosques, roads, bazaars, government offices and business centres during last two years. Already more than 100 villages including Harani and Chandni unions have been vanished into the river.

According to WDB sources, in last two years, two sluice gates, several cyclone shelters, and 14 kilometres of embankments as well as a number of dwelling houses in Boyarchar, Nolerchar and Karingchar areas in the upazila have gone into the riverbed.

Local people said that they would face unbearable sufferings during the approaching rainy season if construction of the block embankment and protection dam does not start by the set time.

The 2100 square kilometers upazila consists of 19 small and big islands, with a population of 7,00,000.

 During several recent spot visits at the upazila, it seemed that about half a million people of Hatiya are living in panic apprehending what the next rainy season might bring.

Locals said the erosion took away near about 50 educational institutions and 20 cyclone shelters last year. They said both of the two naval stations in the island, Nalchira ghat and Chairman ghat, are in face of extinction.

The locals demanded immediate dredging of the river, setting up block embankments surrounding the two naval stations. They also demanded to set up pontoons at the two ghats.

Abul Bashar, 50, a farmer from the erosion-affected area, said that he and his family had become victim of erosion for 13 times in his life. At present, he is living at a makeshift home set up at the newly emerged land at Harani area, along with his wife and children.

“Our house at Hatiya Nalchira Ghat was devoured by the Meghna two years ago. Later my son, who is a day labourer, erected a house on a government khas land at Nolerchar on the bank of the Meghna. Now this is also under threat of erosion,” said Noor Banu, an elderly widow at Nalchira.

Afzal Majhi earlier lived with his children in Sluice Gate area of Karingchar. After losing his house to the Meghna, he is now living at a cyclone shelter in the area in a miserable condition.

“The cyclone shelter centre-cum-primary school at Teker Bazar went into the Meghna early this month. We are worried about the education of our children as there is no school nearby,” said Abdur Rahman of Nalchira.

However, it has been known from reliable sources that two Development Project Proposals (DPPs) have been already prepared, and work on the preparation of a third one is ongoing.

Contacted, local lawmaker Ayesha Ferdous expressed hope that dam construction might kick-start by this month.

Moreover, she said, the biggest Asjhrayan Project has been implemented in Hatiya to provide shelter to the huge number of homeless people.