Rising land mass in the coastal areas
A leading vernacular daily of the country focused sometime ago on lands rising from the sea in the southern coastal area of Noakhali district. The rate of accretion of new lands is considered to be some 30 square kilometer a year. At this rate, new lands roughly the size of two districts of the country are expected to rise in the next two decades or by 2030, according the report. Already, substantial territories have surfaced in the coastal areas of Bangladesh.
Some of these places have completely surfaced and have human habitations on them while others remain submerged during tides and emerge with the ebbing of the tide. The latter types of accreted lands are likely to gain in elevation to be permanently joined to the mainland. Indeed, much of present day Bangladesh including the districts of Faridpur, Barisal, Noakhali, Patuakhali, etc., were formed in this manner over time.
Lands have already emerged from the sea in the coastal areas and more lands from the sea will hopefully rise in the future. But the natural process is a long one. It can be hastened and the technology for it is not so prohibitive or complex either. For Bangladesh, it involves only quickening the process of accretion by establishing structures like cross dams to speed up the rate of deposition of silt in areas that have accreted or nearly accreted.
Bangladesh is likely to get a generous response from the international community in matters of fund availability and technical supports if it can show that it is really keen to accrete more lands and has put the endeavour under a systematic policy framework. Holland is one country which has the most experience in getting lands out of the sea.
It had a situation worse than Bangladesh in the sense that much of it was so low lying and below the sea level that even high tides and storms in the sea led to its severe flooding and continuing inundation. Today, the Dutch have not only solved these problems through sophisticated engineering works, they have permanently reclaimed vast stretches of lands from the sea and are keeping them dry for various uses within secure barriers or sea walls.
Bangladesh may not have to embark on projects on the same scale as were carried out in Holland because of its relatively better elevation. It can use its huge reservoir of cheap manpower to build simpler projects to get the same kind of results as were achieved in Holland.
But for this purpose it needs to engage in a time-bound and result oriented framework of assistance and consultation with that country. Besides, the government of Bangladesh ought to also appeal to the international community to provide funds to it for the purpose.
The developed countries, specially the United States, are the main contributors to the greenhouse syndrome which could affect Bangladesh. Therefore, it would be only conscionable for these countries to help out Bangladesh in projects designed to secure its coastal areas and for their enlargement. The government needs to appropriately sensitize these countries about our expectation.
Even if external aid is found not forthcoming generously, the government can proceed with initiatives of its own to build dams and other structures relying on its own resources. The example of the government of Bangladesh (GOB) providing a lion’s share of the resources to build the Padma Bridge is a shining one. With its growing foreign currency reserve, GOB will be able to likewise progressively channel resources from the reserve to speed up land accretion in the coastal areas.
The imperative is to make a start in this direction right away. Gradually, external cooperation and assistance in the matter would likely come about. This project eminently deserves our attention as it is vitally connected with the longer term security of the country in all respects. It should be obvious that Bangladesh as a land short country needs to put the highest priority on getting new lands.