10 July 2010, Saturday
Divisional Museum Auditorium, Khulna, Bangladesh
Even after more than 14 months of cyclone Aila the the affected 11 Unions of 3 Upazilas under Khulna and Satkhira Districts of Southwest Coastal Region of Bangladesh are still under water as the breached coastal embankments yet to be repaired. More than 125 thousand people are still living on the embankments while more than 87 thousand people had to become climate refugees because they lost their houses, possessions and traditional livelihoods. The areas are shifting to abandoned land as the trees and other environmental elements are degrading due to extreme saline water which remains in the localities since 25th May 2009, the date of Aila hit the areas. Water and Sanitation system of the areas are totally collapsed and thousands of people are crying for safe drinking water rather than food or shelter.
With support from Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL) local people organized several movements under Aila Durgato Sanghati Mancho (Aila Victims Solidarity Committee) and Aila Biddhosto Bandh Nirman Gonosangram Parisad (Mass Movement Committee for Reconstruction of Aila damaged Embankments) when the government failed to reconstruct damaged embankments within December 2009. They organized Press Conference, Submission of Memorandum, Signboard Set-up, Sit-In Program, Human Chain, Dialogue with Policy Makers, Procession, Barricade, Child Rally, Student Movement, Journalists’ Demonstration, Celebrity Visit and Regular updating letter to the Cabinet. Ally organization Nagorik Sanghati also organized several programs including Human Chain, Intellectual’s Visit to the affected areas and media mobilization on the same demand.
After continuous movement in local and national level the BWDB issued Working Order in February 2010 but the reconstruction did not start in time. In the mean time monsoon came and water level started to rise. The contractors started reconstructing in Mid March but they did not follow the approve design, use inappropriate materials and construct in shorter in height and thickness. As a result the embankments collapsed again in the monsoon and people were again in peril.
The Food and Disaster Management Minister, Water Resource Minister and Parliamentary Standing committee said sorry to the people several times. The parliamentary committee formed a probing body to investigate inner cause of this failure and declared punishment of the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) officials if they fail to reconstruct the embankments before 14th April 2010. But the situation remains unchanged even after strict order of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh on 7th April 2010.
In the mean time, the Government of Bangladesh has allocated some 2,500 billion taka for reconstruction and maintenance of the embankments. Additionally, it is heard that the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) is coming forward to invest money for mega-projects on embankment maintenance from their climate change related funds. Due to bitter experience of Coastal Embankment Project (CEP) of 1960s and Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project (KJDRP) of 1990’s the coastal people are anxious about the future impacts of present initiatives.
The Southwest Coastal Conference is to seek a common position of Policy makers, Local Government leaders, Politicians, Academicians, Development Activists, Social movement leaders, Students and common peoples on Coastal Development with due consideration to climate change adaptation and mitigation and environmental equilibrium. The conference is also to sensitize the policy leaders to take adequate measures to reconstruct Aila damaged embankments immediately.