It'd be difficult to overestimate how many millions of human lives were made just a little brighter by Rabindranath Tagore. Generation after generation, across Bangladesh and beyond, the man's words, songs and art offer enduring inspiration.
Now the farmers and villagers of two unions in Kushtia's Kumarkhali upazila have found a new reason to be grateful to the Bard of Bengal. In recent years the historic Tagore family country house, the Kuthibari at Shilaidaha where Tagore penned some of his most memorable poems, has been at risk from Padma River erosion. The government is prioritising construction of a concrete embankment to protect the property. It will protect homes, businesses and farmlands too.
“We're really fortunate to live near the Kuthibari,” says one farmer, Basir Uddin. “The need to preserve the Kuthibari is driving the project's swift implementation.”
“It's good to see timely progress on the embankment construction,” says the chairman of the local council in affected Kaya union, Ziaul Haq Swapan. “If the embankment was delayed many homes and other establishments, including the Kuthibari, might've been lost.”
These communities have always lived in the shadow of the Padma but in terms of erosion, the years 2014 and 2015 were particularly catastrophic. In Shilaidaha union alone, parts of several villages and many hectares of farmland were lost to the river. Since then around 36 villages across the two unions, including educational, government and private institutions, and religious sites, have been at heightened erosion risk.
The project, being implemented by the Bangladesh Water Development Board involves the construction of a 3.72 kilometre stretch of concrete embankment at a cost of Tk 176 crore.
Following a tender process in October 2015, the Bangladesh-Army-associated Bangladesh Diesel Plant Limited was selected to carry out the work, with construction commencing in September 2016. The project is due for completion by December this year.
“About 65 percent of the work is already complete,” says Kushtia-based Bangladesh Water Development Board engineer Arifuzzaman. “We are hopeful that the whole project can be completed as scheduled.”