Farmers in the northeastern backswamps are on the brink of facing another flash flood as the construction and maintenance works of “around 50 percent” Haor protection embankments have not been completed within the given timeline.
Following the devastating flash flood of 2017, the government decided to form project implementation committees (PICs) -- each comprised of five to seven members -- every year to build and maintain the banks, replacing the previous contractors over corruption allegation.
But as of February 23, only 50 percent of the PICs were formed while the deadline for completing all the construction works was February 28.
The information was revealed yesterday in a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity jointly organised by Oxfam and People's Oriented Program Implementation (Popi), a local development NGO.
Speakers also alleged that the people who were sued earlier on charges of corruption were included in many PICs.
“Problems are numerous. Incomplete dams, lack of sustainability of the existing ones and corruption of the PICs are the major concerns,” said Murshed Alam Sarker, executive director of Popi.
Mehbuba Yeasmin, influencing officer at Oxfam in Dhaka, told The Daily Star, “We found many embankments were yet to be repaired. These works should be completed soon.”
Lack of coordination is also there in the implementation level, she said, adding that the authorities should concentrate on it.
However, officials of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) denied the allegations and said they had completed about 89 percent works of the embankment construction and the rest would be completed by March 15.
“Some organisations are misleading people with falsified information. I do not know how they (Popi) assessed the progress or how many sites they have visited. They did not even contact us,” said Abu Bakar Siddik Bhuiyan, executive engineer of WDB in Sunamganj.
Meanwhile, “Haor Bachao, Poribesh Bachao, Sunamganj Bachao” formed a human chain at the Traffic Point of the town on Saturday protesting the delayed work of embankment construction.
“The work was supposed to start on December 15 last year but the administration failed to start on time due to negligence”, Salehin Chowdhury Shuvo, joint secretary of the organisation, said while talking to The Daily Star yesterday.
Jyotimohon Das, a farmer of Dosmontopur village in Sunamganj's Jamalganj upazila, said that the work of a dam nearby his house were yet to be finished.
“There is a chance that it could fail to tackle the flash flood and if it happens, crops of the Halir haor will be badly damaged,” the farmer added.
Abdul Hakim, another farmer of Kotamara village of the upazila echoed the same.
On March 27, 2017, flash floods hit the haor areas of Sylhet, Sunamganj, Habiganj, Netrakona, Kishoreganj, Brahmanbaria and Moulvibazar, around 20 days earlier than the usual timing and caused immense damage to the crops and lives of people.
The region contributes around 55 percent to the country's annual rice production, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension.