Speakers at an online discussion on Saturday demanded an immediate allocation of Tk400 crore to build and repair coastal embankments recently damaged by cyclone Amphan.
They also asked the government to ensure Tk12,000 crore in allocations each fiscal year to build sustainable embankments in coastal areas.
The online discussion titled "Save Embankments and Save Economic Activity of Coastal People Through National Budget 2020-21" was jointly organised by Coast Trust – a non-governmental organisation – and Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihood – a national network of individuals, organisations and institutions.
Chairman of Polli Karma Sohayak Foundation Qazi Kholiquzzaman presided over the function while Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, executive director of Coast Trust, moderated it.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, chairman of Standing Committee on Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, noted economist Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman, lawmaker Akhtaruzzaman Babu, and Dhaka University Professor Dr Mahbuba Nasrin spoke, among others, at the occasion.
Qazi Kholiquzzaman said a special budgetary allocation is a must to recover the losses of the coastal people. Otherwise, many will lose their employment and the areas will become prone to poverty.
An immediate survey should be conducted in this regard, he added.
He also recommended that the government prioritise the construction of coastal embankments led by local government bodies.
According to Coast Trust research, about 150 kilometres of Bangladesh's 5,757 kilometres of coastal embankments were affected by super cyclone Amphan this year.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury said the Water Development Board should work in cooperation with local bodies to face any natural disaster.
Simultaneously, transparency should be ensured and a long-term plan is appreciated in this respect, he added.
Dr Mahbuba Nasrin emphasised the importance of planting trees in and outside embankments to protect them against natural disasters.
Chairman of Koyra sadar union of Khulna Md Humayun Kabir said no new embankments have been built in the union recently. The existing embankments are repaired every year and the area is at-risk during each natural disaster.
Some ring embankments have been built with the help of local people but they are not strong enough, he added.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said the government needs to follow the Sri Lankan model, i.e, coastal afforestation on both sides of embankments. This could be beneficial for both embankments plus riverine and brackish water fisheries resources.
Hashem Mohajon, chairman of Char Kukri Mukri union in Char Fasson upazila under Bhola, said the budget for building embankments should be open. Additionally, more allocations are needed to build a sustainable embankment.
Bhavotosh Mondol, chairman of a union of Shyamnagar upazila in Satkhira, said the Water Development Board builds namesake embankments. They seem not to be responsible to anyone.
Lawmaker Akhtaruzzaman Babu said there is no study on our embankments. A technical study is a must for sustainable embankments across Bangladesh.
The speakers also demanded local governments be given the mandate and budget for embankment construction and maintenance – while the Water Development Board will provide design, monitoring and technical support.
The army should be deployed immediately to reconstruct the embankments in worst-affected areas like Kutubdia and Koyra. Additionally, plans should be made to construct embankments on remote islands where poor people live and are exposed to disasters, they said.