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Unchecked dredging lives along Sunamganj’s Jadukata River

Posted on January 24, 2024

Miscreants may have stopped excavating the banks of the Jadukata River for sand in the wake of protests, but dozens of villages in Sunamganj’s Tahirpur remain at risk of losing land and homes due to illegal dredging activities.

The government leased out a 500-acre area in the middle of the river to Shohag Enterprise and Araf Trade Corporation Ltd for Tk 686.5 million, specifying the use of traditional methods like manual digging for sand collection. Yet, these firms continue to use dredgers and sand sieves.

Locals protested against the excavation of stones and pebbles after the authorities leased out the area solely for sand extraction, according to

Using sand sieves on engine-run boats is causing more concern as the workers use these machines to dig deep holes near the banks.

Villagers fear these holes could cause the river banks to collapse during flash floods after heavy rains upstream in India’s Meghalaya and wipe out farmland, homes, streets, and government and private establishments along the river.

Karuna Sindhu Chowdhury Babul, chairman of Tahirpur Upazila Council, questioned the authorities’ “mysterious” decision to permit machine usage for sand and stone extraction, noting its detrimental impact on villagers and manual sand collectors.

“It seems to me that a group has exploited the facility for their own benefit. Parts of many villages have already been lost. The villagers who depend on manual sand collection for income cannot work now,” he said.

Last week, workers were spotted using four dredgers and hundreds of sieves to collect sand.

Villagers Taramon Bibi and Joytun Begum collect twigs for cooking using hand sieves. They used to sell excess twigs in the past, but they now struggle to gather enough for personal use due to the dredging and machine sieving.

Another villager, Akbar Ali, collects sand manually with a spade. He claims the lessees charge individuals Tk 1,000 a day to use sieves on engine-run boats, a fee allegedly required to “manage the authorities”.

“We are simple labourers. How can we afford this? Those with money don’t have to work, yet they profit while doing nothing,” he said.

Abdul Mannan, 60, said that farm labourers from the Haor or backswamp areas, who used to collect sand in the off-season, have also abandoned the area due to the influx of dredgers and sieves.

The illegal dredging and sieving threaten several villages and areas along the river’s west bank, including Adarshagram, Jalotek, ISKCON Temple, Gorkati, Ghagra, Konatchhara, Sohala, Fazilpur, Anwarpur Bazar, and Mahtabpur. To the east, streets, markets and several establishments have been destroyed due to erosion at Lauergor, Binakuli, Modergaon, Miarchar and Satish villages.

Business owners in these areas say that the lessees permit dredgers for Tk 20,000 per day, during which time around 2,000 cubic feet of stones can be collected.

Around 40-50 dredgers and thousands of sieves are now deployed to collect sand and stone, said Nizam Uddin, chairman of Badaghat Union Parishad.

Despite the widespread and illegal use of dredgers and sieves, no initiative has been taken to stop them, and the authorities have remained silent, according to Nizam.

He pointed out that these machines have created thousands of holes, each 30-40 feet deep. Nizam expressed concerns about the impending monsoon season, warning that flash floods could result in the loss of homes and farmland for thousands of families living along the river.

Ratan Mia, one of the lessees involved, claimed he deployed three dredgers in the river to maintain its proper flow. He also claimed that Sunamganj Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Rashed Iqbal Chowdhury was aware of the use of these dredgers.

He denied allegations of illicit stone collection, insisting that the contract only related to sand. “Locals are the ones collecting stones, driven by a syndicate. They ignore our calls against stone collection,” he said.

Manzur, the other lessee, could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone number was not in use.

Pointing to his recent transfer to Sunamganj, Deputy Commissioner Iqbal said he could not take immediate action.

However, he assured that measures would be taken if lease conditions were found to be violated, adding that he would look into the allegations concerning the use of dredgers and sieves for sand and stone collection.

“I will send a magistrate to conduct a drive and take action.”


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