Sand, Stone From Meghalaya: Carried by flash flood, damaging cropland
It was a rainy night in July 2008. Residents of some bordering villages in Sunamganj's Tahirpur upazila heard a sound of landslide coming from a hill across the border.
Within minutes, a flash flood carried stones and sand mixed with coal chips onto Bangladesh through a small transboundary canal named Nayachhara.
That night, vast areas of farmland were covered in sand, ponds were filled and houses were buried knee-deep in sand in Chanpur village.
The canal, the only tributary to Pochashol Beel of Tanguar Haor, was also filled with sand.
Since then, this has been recurring every rainy season.
Locals and environmentalists blamed the landslides on open cast limestone and coal mining and razing of hillocks in the Khasi Hills districts of India's Meghalaya.
According to locals, Chandpur, Rajani Line, Jangalbari, Charagaon, Maram, Burungachhara, and Shantipur are the villages most affected in Tahirpur.
The Nayachhara canal and Pochashol Beel have also been filled up with sand over the years. Parts of Tekerghat road, the only road for communication between the three bordering upazilas in the district, have also been damaged badly.
This year alone, at least 400 acres of land, mostly farmland, has been covered with sand, locals said.
Md Khasrul Alam, chairman of Sreepur Uttar union in Tahirpur upazila, said: "The most alarming issue is the loss of navigability in most parts of the Jadukata and Patlai rivers. Besides, the Maharam river was filled up with sand several years ago."
Indigenous rights leader Andrew Sholomar, a resident of Rajai village and a member of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon's (Bapa's) Sunamganj chapter, said: "Visiting the Khasi Hills in Meghalaya in the last few years, I saw mining of stone, limestone and coal going on. That's causing the landslides there."
On August 23, a Bapa delegation, led by the its Secretary Sharif Jamil, visited the area in Tahirpur and expressed grave concern over the situation.
Mohammad Amran Hossain, director of DoE in Sylhet, said, "These residues of the landslides are having an impact on the environment. We have no plan to assess the environmental loss there, but we will try to conduct a study."
Md Shamsudduha, executive engineer of Bangladesh Water Development Board in Sunamganj, said they were conducting a survey on filled up land as directed by the administration.
Asked about saving water bodies, he said they were planning a Tk 1,547 crore project to excavate the district's 14 rivers, including the Jadukata, the Maharam and the Patlai in Tahirpur.
Md Mahmudur Rahman, member of India-Bangladesh Joint River Commission, said there was no initiative to save the Jadukata and its tributary and distributary rivers and canals from being damaged.
Sunamganj Deputy Commissioner Md Zahangir Hossain said they would raise the issue of damages to Bangladesh's rivers at the next conference of the deputy commissioners (Bangladesh) and district magistrates (India) of the bordering districts of the two countries.
The next meeting is yet to be scheduled.