Barguna: Fear has gripped the residents of Betagi municipality of Barguna, as the main town protection embankment is under erosion threat due to the alleged negligence of the authorities concerned.
The road constructed on the town protection embankment on the west side of the Launch Ghat has de-veloped big cracks at several places, causing concern over the safety of the adjacent areas.
It has left thousands of traders and residents living in fear, especially amid the threat of Cyclone Mocha over the Bay.
The Indian Meteorological Department has recently issued a warning about the possible formation of a cyclonic storm called ‘Mocha’ in the southeast Bay of Bengal, which has caused uncertainty about the longevity of the protection dam.
Local said the slow progress of the erosion control project has aggravated the situation.
Previously, erosion by the Bishkhali river destroyed launch ghats, port, small factories, jute shops, hous-es, businesses, and public and private institutions, paddy fields, mosques, and madrashas.
And now, the dam, upazila parishad complex, passenger camp at launch ghat, hundred years old tradi-tional Kali temple, mosques, and the rest of the municipality are in danger.
In 2017, a project was approved to protect the municipality and then secretary to the local government division Abdul Malek laid the foundation stone of the project. The project was halted and the foundation stone is the only visible work of the project.
Last year, the Executive Committee of the National Ecomic Council (ECNEC) approved a project worth TK 404 crore to protect the municipality and other important areas from the erosion by the Bishkhali river.
But Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) has not yet started the project work. The delay in the project has caused anger and frustration among the local residents.
The tender process for the protection project is ongoing, according to the WDB Barguna office.
Abdur Rob, a labourer who lives on the banks of the river, expressed his fear for the upcoming monsoon season, saying “I don’t know what the future holds for us. The way Bishkhali is eroding right now, I can’t imagine what will happen after the monsoon and cyclone ‘Mocha’”.
Md. Sohail Howladar, the owner of Jhalkathi Engineering Workshop, said that erosion has been increas-ing in the area adjacent to his shop for the past few months, with the crack in the paved road dangerous-ly close to his establishment.
He said that it is only a matter of time before his shop disappears into the river.
Abdul Halim, owner of a sawmill in Kath Bazar, expressed his frustration at the lack of progress by au-thorities, saying that “Locals have to travel through many alternative routes. I have been hearing for a long time the work will start. But I don’t see any progress.”
Betagi Municipality Mayor ABM Golam Kabir said, “The Betagi protection dam project was halted but I hope it will start soon.”
WDB’s Barguna district’s executive engineer Md. Rakib said he has inspected the condition of the dam.
“The matter has been brought to the attention of higher authorities. Necessary measures will be taken for immediate repair of the dam, and the re-tendering process will be initiated soon,” he said.