Govt needs to correct its course about tidal river management
The tidal river management programme planned by the Water Development Board at Bil Kapalia—a huge water body in Jessore— supposed to improve the natural flow of river water to the area and thereby resolve a long-standing water-logging problem there, appears to have caused a lot of controversies in the public mind, especially in the villages surrounding the water body. As mentioned in a series of reports published in New Age on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, rampant corruption (particularly in terms of giving compensation to the affected people), flawed design of the projects, and above all, failure of the water board to share the project details with the local people have largely led to the project, albeit once popular, facing ‘waning public support’. For instance, the water board earlier implemented two similar projects at Bil Kedaria and Bil Khukshia— two other water bodies in the same district – which have failed to create any positive impact on the people supposed to benefit from them. Moreover, even official sources confirm that only a quarter of the 1082 people entitled to financial compensation due to the tidal river management programme at Bil Khukshia, which was launched in 2005 and was due to come to an end in two years but still continues, have so far received the money. Allegedly, a significant number of eligible people of the area have been left out of the compensation list, that too, partly on political grounds, while many had to bribe the relevant officials to have their names put on the list. On the other hand, according to a former president of the Institute of Diploma Engineers, both the projects had ‘infrastructural flaws’ as they failed to create the two ways needed to allow water flow ‘to and from the bil’. Besides, although it is essential to remove barriers on the rivers to make the river bed deeper than the bil, the water board did not do so in both cases.
Overall, the people of the villages around Bil Kapalia, who are by and large happy at the moment with their land that gives them considerable amount of crops and fish, refused to allow the tidal management programme in question on their land. Not only that, they appeared hell-bent on resisting the project as they resorted to vandalism on June 2 when the government authorities, including the local lawmaker, tried to implement it by force. Unfortunately, the latter have failed to understand their state of mind as they later unleashed attacks on, apart from filing blanket cases against, the villagers, apparently in retaliation.
Be that as it may, the government needs to take lessons from the whole episode, in particular the incidents that have occurred so far at Bil Kapalia. Firstly, any project, especially one which involves people’s livelihood and environmental concerns, must be launched taking the local people along with it. Also, it must be implemented in a transparent manner.
comments powered by Disqus