The government is planning to conduct dredging operations in at least 10 rivers in the country's north-eastern region to increase navigability of those rivers for tackling disasters in the flood-prone haor areas.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has initiated a Tk 47.61 million scheme to carry out necessary feasibility study in this regard. Based on the findings of the study, a detailed project will be initiated for conducting dredging works.
The rivers which will come under the feasibility study for this purpose include Meghna, Khowai, Rokti, Shutang, Baulai, Surma, Kongsho, Jadukata, Pagla, Buri, Jamina, Titas, Mogra, Monu, Kalshi and Kushiara rivers flowing through the districts of Habiganj, Sunamganj, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Kishoreganj, Netrakona and Brahmanbaria.
Starting from September this year, the project is expected to run until April next year.
The latest government's move came against the backdrop of severe flash flood that devastated the haor region of the country earlier this year.
Water flowing downstream from India flooded Sylhet's wetlands around the end of March. The floods caused damage to Boro rice of an extensive area and death of fish and waterfowl in those haors.
Disaster also prompted the government to take measures for importing a substantial volume of rice, something it was not required to do in the last few years.
According to government statistics, there are a total of 373 haors in the north-eastern Sunamganj, Sylhet, Habiganj, Moulvibazar, Netrakona, Kishoreganj and Brahmanbaria districts.
These water bodies together cover a total area of about 859,000 hectares or which is around 43 per cent of the total area of the haor districts.
The region has distinctive hydrological characteristics. Annual rainfall ranges from 2200 millimetres along the western boundary to 5800 millimetres in its north-east corner and is as high as 12000 millimetres in the headwaters of some catchments extending to India.
The region receives water from the catchment slopes of the Shillong Plateau across the borders in India to the north and the Tripura Hills in India to the south-east.
Flash flood is a common occurrence in the region. Excess rainfall in the upstream hilly areas and subsequent runoff, sedimentation in the rivers, deforestation , hill cutting, landslide, improper drainage, unplanned road and water management infrastructure and effect of climate variability are usually blamed for the devastation caused by flash floods.
In this context, Haor Development Board earlier prepared a master plan, as per which, BIWTA was given the responsibility for enhancing the navigability of the rivers in the region.
Apart from navigability, the dredging works are also expected to be a boost to water supply, tourism, irrigation and the development of port infrastructure in the region.
"First and foremost, it is necessary to conduct a detailed census to determine the amount of dredging that would be required across those rivers to ensure necessary navigability", a shipping ministry official told the FE.
"Based on the findings of this feasibility study, a detailed development project proposal would be formulated to initiate a bigger project for carrying out dredging operations in the north-eastern rivers", he added.