How fertile lands became deserts | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 06, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 06, 2018


How fertile lands became deserts

Take action to mitigate damage

Yesterday, we reported how an act of gross negligence on the part of a government agency has turned out to be a disaster for hundreds of farmers in Bagerhat. When Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) completed its dredging project in Mongla-Ghashiyakhali channel in 2005, the contractor dumped the dredged silt on private lands instead of carrying out proper disposal, turning nearby fertile farm fields into near deserts. In the three years since the dredging, many have tried to remove the sand from their fields with little success, while many trees have died in the saline water.

This case shows why the government should take all possible consequences into account while initiating such a project. In this context, the most pressing question is: Why did the contractor responsible for this project not have any plan beforehand regarding the disposal of the silt? BIWTA, being an expert agency, should have seen this coming, and explicitly stated in the contract that the contractor would have to properly dispose of the dredged silt.

It is disappointing to learn that the government hasn't yet taken any initiative to help the 300 affected families, whose sole source of income has been destroyed.

To mitigate the damage, the government should encourage the cultivation of saline-tolerant crops in these areas, and technical experts should be commissioned to find out whether salinity can be reduced. Also, the government can help the affected farmers remove sand from their land.

This should serve as a wakeup call as to why we should be more sensitive about environmental and ecological aspects while carrying out such projects. Development work will go in vain or turn out to be counterproductive if it is not thoroughly thought out and carried out in a sustainable way.

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