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Dredging of River Surma halts for dispute over sand dumping spot

Posted on June 10, 2024

The excavation of River Surma aimed to resolve the waterlogging issue of Sylhet, was recently halted after the Sylhet City Corporation (SCC) asked the Bangladesh Water Development Board to change the dumping spot of excavated sand of the river.

After 50 years, Surma dredging started in 2023 as a priority task with the government taking into notice the higher magnitude of pre-monsoon floods in the northeast and the Haor belt. Sylhet has been experiencing the worst pre-monsoon flood for more than a decade.

Residents alleged that rainfall for a few hours waterlogs most of the areas of the city which leads to unprecedented human suffering.

According to the Bangladesh Water Development Board (WDB), SCC has asked to change the sand dumping spot and BWDB will resume the dredging after finding an alternative place for dumping the lifted sand from the River Surma.

However, Lawmaker for Sylhet-1 constituency and Former Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said “The reason behind the river dredging was stopped seems just like an excuse. This is not acceptable in any way.”

Momen last year inaugurated the dredging of the Surma River in Sylhet involving Taka 50 crore. About 18 kilometres of the river are scheduled to be excavated from Kushighat in Sylhet city to Lamakaji Bridge in the first phase with the estimated cost of Tk 50 crore under two contractors, according to the BWDB.

The initiative was taken after Sylhet witnessed the biggest flood in the history of 150 years in 2022 leaving many people homeless. The work was supposed to be completed in June this year. But now the excavation work has stopped before completion.

BWDB Executive Engineer of Sylhet, Deepak Ranjan Das said, “Around 12 km out of 18 km work is on its way to be completed. This work was supposed to be completed in June. But it didn’t happen. Sylhet City Corporation has stopped that work. On the other hand, the river is currently completely full, in this condition, it is not possible to continue the excavation.”

SCC Acting Mayor Makhlishur Rahman Kamran, said “Sand dumping has been stopped based on the complaints of the residents of Ward no 24. They alleged where the sand was being dumped, that place is a reservoir. So, SCC requested to choose an alternative place for dumping the sand.”

Responding to a question about whether there is an alternative place to store the sand, the Acting Mayor said, “Of course, I won’t allow the excavation work to remain stopped at any cost. I will sit with others to find an alternative spot.”

Meanwhile, Azim Uddin, the operations manager of the Dhaka-based contractor Confidence Infrastructure Limited, said, “The Department of Environment raised the complaint of filling the reservoir. But we signed an agreement with the Kusighat Masque authorities before dumping the sand. They said the place belongs to the mosque.”

Assistant Director of the Department of Environment Badrul Huda explained that “Lifted sand is a government resource. Those sand should be sold through tender. But the place where the sand was being thrown, cannot be recovered later. At the same time, they were filling up a reservoir by throwing sand.”


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