In November 1970, a cyclone struck the coastal belt of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited the cyclone-affected areas of Bhola, Sandwip and Barisal extremely overcame with grief observing the destruction of life and property. Natural disasters visit Bangladesh at frequent intervals. When Bangabandhu assumed power the country faced serious floods as well as draughts. After visiting those flood, draught, cyclone affected areas his eyes swelled with tears in despair. Once he was visiting a flood affected area in a Southern district. After seeing the misery of the flood affected people he felt extremely sad and raised his hands in prayer and prayed loudly to Allah, "Oh Allah help me, give me land so that I can provide food and shelter to my people." There was a man standing beside Bangabandhu, who witnessed this and narrated Bangabandhu's prayer to me.
Bangabandhu sacrificed lives of himself and his family for progress and independence of this country. His dreams and aspirations were that we inherit a country free of poverty. His gift to us was a free, sovereign country Bangladesh, a country of vibrant fresh water rivers filled with aquatic life providing livelihood to thousands of fishing communities, a land of green fields and forests. On 16 December 1971, under the leadership of father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, we freed our country. We tasted true freedom for the first time in history.
The nation started its journey during 1972 with a population of 7 million. Today, the population is over 160 million. With the present increasing rate of population growth, it is estimated to be 200 million by 2030. Ours is a small nation comprising of approximately 56,977 square miles of territory. Hence, we need to evaluate seriously, what will be our situation in 2030. To realize the situation first, let us have a fictional time travel to the year 2030 and see what is happening.
The year is 2030 AD. Major rivers are silted or dry. Canals and ponds have been extinct. Population is 200 million. Waterways are almost useless. Saline water moves northwards destroying agricultural lands. There is severe scarcity of water for irrigation. Draught and forests are on the verge of extinction, atmosphere is totally polluted with smog from factories, and power generation plants, particularly coal and Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) based power plants. How did all this happen?
Now let us return to our present to analyze the causes that will lead the country to destruction. Over 1.2 billion cubic meters of silts come down from the Himalayas annually and fill our riverbeds. The rivers, canals, and water bodies across the country are being filled up. Additionally, all types of water bodies are being encroached by greedy individuals or groups in the name of economic development and progress. Rivers are systematically being killed by pollution and dumping of waste making them devoid of any aquatic life.
Due to continuous and unabated diversion of our due share of water from across the border, major rivers are dead or dying. Availability of water for irrigation is getting scarce forcing farmers to use ground water. Most inland fishing communities are being eliminated. Was this the dream and aspiration of Bangabandhu, father of the nation and martyrs of 1971 who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the nation? Definitely not.
Therefore, as a nation, is it not our duty to take immediate steps to rectify and address the situation so that our future generation and the nation can be saved from the looming crises? We must, under the leadership of Honorable Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, undertake the task of turning the dreams of a beautiful Bangladesh into reality by expeditiously structuring and implementing a massive nationwide dredging program to dredge the rivers, canals, and water bodies of Bangladesh. The sand lifted by dredging the rivers is to be barged to the Bay of Bengal and with this sand, land reclamation program can be initiated.
The dredging and reclamation work should be undertaken in such a scientific manner that marine life is adequately protected. Dredging programs that have already been undertaken are praiseworthy. Unfortunately, the sand presently dredged is pumped back down stream causing massive additional problems and are used for filling water bodies for establishing industries. Furthermore, it is doubtful whether appropriate scientific study and steps are being taken to protect the marine life at the designated dredging sites.
Approximately 2,000 square miles of land initially can be easily reclaimed. If Singapore and part of Dubai can be build on reclaimed land from the ocean and China can build an island in the middle of the ocean, why can't we do the same? With the present accelerated rate of population growth, we desperately need more land. Once the initial land is reclaimed, we would then proceed with the task of reclaiming additional square miles. In the meanwhile, encroached rivers and canals must be recovered at any cost, irrespective of whoever is the perpetrator. The reclaimed land should be used for settlement of the displaced population. Establishment of wind, solar and Coal-Water Slurry Fuel (CWSF) based power projects to produce approximately 10,000 MW of electricity is necessary. Deep-water safe harbor-sea port for bulk and containerized cargo with modern warehouse facilities and fuel storage terminals should be ensured. modern ocean fisheries port with processing facilities are necessary to cater to the export markets, export oriented industries, projects related to agriculture, fisheries, forestry and animal husbandry sectors, naval base and airport, modern cities, towns, and villages with requisite infrastructures and other desired projects.
The question one may ask here is from where the money will come, as billions of US dollars are necessary to implement all these projects. There are numerous local and foreign individuals and organizations that are ready and willing to come forward with the required investments, all the government needs to do is to express its serious interest, and the required funds will be made available.
The government has undertaken, in every sector, massive development programs. It is dedicated towards the betterment of the nation. Her kind attention is necessary to immediately address this subject securing a prosperous future for our nation. The legacy of Bangabandhu is that he gave us a nation; the legacy of the government should be the prosperity of the nation.
The writer is a trade expert