Piyara Begum once had a happy life in Garuhara village by the Brahmaputra River in northern Bangladesh, but worsening erosion of the river banks has displaced her family seven times.
Now Piyara, 30, has taken shelter in Panchgachi village, 8 kilometers away in the same sub-district of Kurigram Sadar and planning to move to Dhaka the capital of Bangladesh to support her family.
“I am always concerned about where Piyara and her three children are living, and how she manages her family expenses, as she has lost everything due to erosion,” said her uncle, Abdul Majid, who still lives in Garuhara village.
The loss of Piyara’s home is taking a toll on her mental and physical health, he added.
Riverbank erosion is a common problem along the mighty Brahmaputra during the monsoon, but scientists say climate change is making the phenomenon worse by contributing to higher levels of flooding and siltation.
According to villagers in Garuhara, about 200 families have been displaced by erosion there in the last two years.
Majid fears that if the trend continues, the whole of the village will go underwater, rendering about 1,000 families homeless.
But some of those who want to escape that prospect cannot – because they are unable to turn their assets into the cash they need to pay for their move.
Abdul Malek, 45, a farmer in Garuhara, had 0.4 acres of agricultural land on the bank of the Brahmaputra, but the river washed away half his plot during the monsoon last year.
“My family had no problem in the past as we cultivated crops on the land to meet our food demand. But now we are facing trouble,” he said.
Malek and his family are planning to migrate to another part of the country after selling their homestead, but they cannot find a buyer because the property is at high risk of erosion.
Other families in Garuhara village who also want to sell up and leave are trapped there for the same reason.
EROSION RATES RISING
The Brahmaputra is a transboundary river, originating in southwestern Tibet, flowing through the Himalayas, India’s Assam State and Bangladesh, and out into the Bay of Bengal.
Climate change has contributed to rapid siltation of the river in recent years, which is intensifying bank erosion during the monsoon, Bangladesh Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A 2014 study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature showed that the flow of the Brahmaputra is influenced strongly by the melting of snow and ice upstream, mainly in the eastern Himalaya mountains.
This century, as temperatures rise, the river is likely to see an overall increase in flows throughout the year, driven by more rainfall, higher snow melt rates and expanded run-off areas, the study said.
Every year, the river carries silt from the Himalayas and deposits it downstream in Bangladesh, creating myriad islands known as chars.
When floods occur upstream on the Brahmaputra, amid more intense bursts of heavy rainfall linked to climate change, the silted-up river has less capacity to carry the huge volume of water, accelerating bank erosion.
Maminul Haque Sarker of the Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), a Dhaka-based think tank, said the erosion rate has increased at some points of the river in Kurigram, Gaibandha, Jamalpur and Sirajganj districts.
A 2015 CEGIS study put the annual rate of erosion along the Brahmaputra at around 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) in recent years.
Bangladesh’s major rivers combined consume several thousand hectares of floodplain annually, destroying homes and infrastructure and leaving people landless and homeless.
We are now trying to provide some helps to those distressed people. Providing some food and money will not mitigate their problems but if we provide the way of earning some livelihood that will help.
So we planned to provide their man Rickshaw so can carry passengers to earn daily. It will help them a lot because government and other organizations only provide relief funds in small amount or some foods and that will not help them for long run. So our plan is to help them with a sustainable solution so they can at least support themeselves during this disasterous time of their life.
Please support our cause to help these people.
F. H. Khan (Chairman)
Shikor (Bd) West London Uk