Environmental activists and locals have called on the Mongla Port authorities not to use arable lands in a Khulna union to dump sand being extracted from the River Pasur as part of a government project.
They said the plan to dump sands on over 300 acres of three-crop land in Banishanta union of Dacope upazila will have a disastrous impact on the environment and displace at least 5000 farmers.
The call came at a press conference on Sunday at the Dhaka Reporters Unity, organised by the Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa).
The Mongla Port authorities are dredging the Pasur River to increase navigability and increase port capacity. The sands being extracted from the river are being dumped by the riverside.
Speakers at the programme said such instances of sand dumping have displaced farmers and led to the loss of land fertility in other places. They fear the same fate will befall Banishanta residents.
“Croplands where sands have been dumped can’t be harvested for 8-10 years. In some lands, not even grass can grow,” said Manojit Dev, a farmland owner in Banishanta.
He also said the authorities do not pay sufficient compensation to landowners.
“We have sworn we will protect our resources with our lives,” he added.
Satyajit Gain, another Banishanta resident, said “The Mongla Port authorities want to give Tk2 lakh per acre in 10 years as compensation, where we now earn about Tk5 lakh per year in crops from the land.”
Delivering the keynote address, Md Nur Alam Sheikh, convener of Bapa’s Mongla unit, said “The Ecnec project approved in 2020 states 216 lakh cubic meters of soil and sand will be extracted from the Pasur River. But despite having ample space to dump sand in Mongla port, they are planning to waste agricultural land to cut cost.”
He added these actions will bring all kinds of disaster to the region.
Joining the programme virtually, Professor Md Khalequzzaman of the University of Lock Haven in the United States said, according to a court directive, any land filling and setting up of industries within 10km of the Sundarbans is prohibited. Banishanta falls within that distance.
“The authorities’ decision to dump the sand [in cropland near the Sundarbans] is impractical and not environment friendly,” he said, adding that this will cause damage to the Sundarbans and arable lands.
The professor continued, “There is uncultivated land a short distance away to dump the sands. Space inside the Mongla port can be used for the same purpose as well.”