River erosion every year destroys households of some 50,000 people, who comprise around 30 to 40 percent of the homeless in the country, said Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud yesterday.
Addressing a seminar, he also stated that the Farrakka barrage in India causes some negative impacts, not floods, in Bangladesh and that some media reports were incorrect in saying that this year's flood was caused for it being opened.
The government is giving more emphasis on saving rivers and people living along river banks while the ministry has made river erosion management its prime task as the impacts of river erosion have worsened in recent times, he said.
The seminar was organised by the Institute of Water Modelling (IWM) in the capital's Water Resources Planning Organization (WRPO).
Controlling river erosion is a costly and difficult task as it takes some Tk 50-70 crore to dredge every square kilometre of a river like Jamuna, said Anisul.
The ministry is thinking of exporting sand from river basins as some countries have showed interest to lift it at their own cost, he added.
To control flood, the government is also planning on constructing permanent structures in place of temporary embankments which become damaged every year while increasing in height and width some embankments, said Anisul.
On ending waterlogging which affects Bhabodaho in Jessore for extended periods, he requested the locals to provide assistance in putting to use tidal river management, which allows water to move in and out of wetlands and river basins with the tide.
More budgetary allocation and manpower is needed to accelerate the work of the ministry and Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), he added.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) Chairman M Mozammel Haque said Local Government Engineering Department, BIWTA and BWDB would soon launch a dredging initiative to bring back to life 400 rivers in the next five years.
BWDB Additional Director (planning) Mahfuzur Rahman said, “We need to manage river water and conduct dredging in a systematic way so that silt can wash away through river flow. It will automatically continue the dredging process and reduce the cost.”
IWM Executive Director Dr Monowar Hossain said, “Flood aggravates erosion by producing a large amount of silt. So we need to control flood for reducing river erosion.”
To control floods and damage, the government and related authorities need to produce detailed information on the current situation of embankments to know whether these need repair, said Prof Ataur Rahman of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).
Besides, the government can establish shelters in flood prone areas and convey flood forecasts in a way easily understandable for all, he said.
IWM Flood Management Division Director Sohel Masud said the flood forecasting system needs to be more upgraded through the use of advanced technology as the damage of this year's flood has been minimised through early forecast.
Pointing out that illegal sand lifting hampers the flow of rivers, Prof M Abdul Matin of Buet said, “A river will not harm us through erosion or flood if we do not disturb her.”
Senior Secretary at the ministry Zafar Ahmed Khan and WRPO Director General Sarafat Hossain Khan also spoke.