Farmers of different haor (a type of wetland) areas yesterday blamed a lack of proper initiatives to construct embankments and rising of riverbeds by siltation as the main reasons behind damage to the crops in early flood.
Addressing a roundtable at Dhaka Reporters Unity in the capital, they also alleged that contractors who got the job of building embankments from Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) did not complete their work in due time and, in most cases, they were involved in corruption.
The farmers of the haor areas demanded that the authorities concerned identify the individuals involved in corruption and bring them to book.
Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) in collaboration with Water Rights Forum organised the roundtable.
“All my crops are destroyed. I don't know how I will be able to feed my children let alone continue their education,” said Abdus Sobhan, a flood-affected farmer in Sunamganj haor area.
The worried father said he had to take a loan for cultivation this year, but like many other farmers in the haor areas, his future is uncertain. “We need a permanent solution to this crisis,” he said.
Echoing him, the flood-affected residents sought loans on easy terms for farming and urged that the government declare the areas surrounding haors as “affected areas”.
“As BWDB did not construct and repair the embankments timely, flood water entered the croplands from all sides,” said Kasmir Reza, president of Paribesh O Haor Unnayan Shangstha, while presenting his keynote speech.
On an average, some 75 percent crops in haor areas of Sunamganj, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Netrakona, Kishoreganj and Brahmanbaria went under floodwater in the last few days, causing damage to crops worth around Tk 6,000 crore, claimed Reza.
He said 90 percent crops in Sunamganj have gone under floodwater and farmers in those areas are facing a severe crisis as they did their cultivation with loans from different NGOs.
Reza demanded that the government sell rice at Tk 10 per kg to the affected people in haor areas and continue the assistance till the next season of rice cultivation.
Seeking the government's attention, Sultana Kamal, former adviser to a caretaker government, said it is possible to solve and prevent disasters such as flood in haor areas if the government plays a proactive role.
She said impoverished farmers are being harassed for defaulting loans, but defaulters who steal crores from banks are being established in the society.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said during this crisis period she supports the demand of opening up the entire haor areas for fishing.
Prof Anowar Hossain, M Inamul Haque, former director general of Water Resources Planning Organisation; and Shamsul Huda, executive director of ALRD, also spoke.