"We have nothing left now. Cruel Teesta has left us destitute…"
Zarina Begum (63) of Bajra union in Ulipur upazila of Kurigram wailed as she sat on the bank of the Teesta river. Her eyes, all tears, glanced at the river that took away her eight decimals of homestead land, her last remaining asset, on Friday night, after it previously devoured her two bighas of arable land.
"We don't know where we will go now," a distraught Zarina said in a broken voice.
In the last 46 years since her marriage, Zarina lost her land in Paschim Bajra village to Teesta's erosion eight times -- this time left with nothing else remaining to lose. Once a modest agrarian homestead, Zarina's household just became one more family going below the poverty line.
Bajra union is surrounded by Teesta on two sides and Brahmaputra on one. Every year many families in the union have to suffer due to floods and river erosion, and have to keep moving their houses all year round, spending much of their earnings to this end.
Zarina's neighbour Rashida Begum (32), a mother of two, also said they lost their homestead of five decimals of land to Teesta on the same night. Samad Miah (60), a day labourer from the same village, also lost his homestead and arable lands to the river over the course of his life.
"Even a decade ago, I owned 10 bigha of land. Now, I am a landless and destitute day labourer. We have to live on someone else's land. Our future is bleak and uncertain," he said.
Maulana Delwar Hossain, imam of Paschim Bajra Jame Mosque, told The Daily Star that the mosque was devoured by the river right before their eyes, and they could save nothing. The residents helped rebuild the mosque with great difficulty, he said.
Rezaul Karim Amin, chairman of Bajra Union Parishad, told The Daily Star that at least 950 families in the union have lost their homesteads and arable lands to Teesta's erosion and are living below the poverty line over the last three years. The erosion is happening at five points in the union and important infrastructures, homesteads, cultivable lands and orchards are being lost to the river.
"I have informed the Water Development Board several times for taking measures to check river erosion but no action has been taken yet," he said.
Ariful Islam, executive engineer of Water Development Board in Kurigram, told The Daily Star that they had inspected the eroded areas and work would begin soon to prevent erosion by dumping geo-bags.