8,470 residents of Shyamnagar and Asashuni upazila make a living by fishing, collecting honey, crabs and golpata in the Sundarbans
People who depend on the Sundarbans for their livelihood have been passing their days in severe hardship in absence of any initiative for their rehabilitation after super cyclone Amphan lashed the coastal regions of the country in May.
Many of them lost their fishing nets in the river, many others lost their fishing boats while the moualis (honey hunters) lost their tools. And, losing capital and house to live in, most of the forest dwellers have lost all they had.
But this is nothing new as one disaster comes in the wake of another before any move is taken for their rehabilitation.
These forest dwellers were battered by cyclone Sidr on November 16, 2007, Aila on May 25, 2009, Fani on April 26, 2019, Bulbul on November 9 of that year and Amphan on May 20 this year.
The affected people wish they could know how long they would continue to suffer.
Abdur Rahman, a resident of Katibarhal village of Bhurulia Union under Shyamnagar upazila near the Sundarbans, collects honey from the Sundarbans.
He set up 195 boxes of bees in the Nildumur market area. However, at least 100 of his boxes have been washed away by the tidal wave caused by Amphan, making him destitute.
"Each box costs Tk3,000 so I lost Tk3 lakh. The cyclone washed away all my investments. However, no government department has communicated with us," he lamented.
According to the forest department, 8,470 residents of Shyamnagar and Asashuni upazila make a living by fishing with nets in the coastal Sundarbans rivers of Satkhira, collecting honey, crabs and golpata in the Sundarbans.
There are 1,020 board licence certificates (BLCs) for fishing in the Sundarbans. There are three fishermen in each BLC.
There are 1,790 BLCs for catching crabs, two fishermen in each BLC. Besides, there are 260 honey BLCs, six moualis in each BLC. Moreover, there are 45 BLCs for collecting golpata, six in each BLC.
Raju Ahmed of Datinakhali village in Burigoalini union of Shyamnagar upazila catches crabs in the Sundarbans.
The family lives by selling crabs. His mother Rashida Begum said her son cannot sell crabs as no one wants to buy crabs amid Covid-19 pandemic. Only a few are sold but at a lower price, not adequate to run the family.
Fisherman Kamrul Ghazi of Burigoalini village said, "I lost my boat and net worth Tk40,000. I have to rebuild everything by taking loans."
"I faced similar losses during the previous cyclones too. Where is the end to our miseries?" he asked.
GM Masudul Alam, chairman of coastal Gabura union parishad, said there are 5,000 fishermen in the union.
The government has given 56 kg of rice to each of the people affected by Covid-19 and Amphan. Apart from this, 200 fishermen are being given cash assistance of Tk20,300 by NGOs. Apart from this, Tk4,000 is being given to one thousand fishermen by NGO Sushilan.
Satkhira fisheries officer Mashiur Rahman said they could not take any initiative to cooperate with the foresters of the Sundarbans.
No discussion regarding helping them takes place in the meeting of the district administration too.
"This is because we do not have any information about the fishermen in the Sundarbans. Even if we ask the forest department, they do not give any information. If we could get a list, we would take initiative to help them," he said.
However, the government has provided 56 kg of rice to each of 31,000 fishermen in Asashuni and Shyamnagar upazilas of the district during Covid-19 and Amphan situations, he added.
Sundarbans Satkhira Range assistant forest conservator Abul Hasan said there are 8,000-10,000 forest dwellers in Satkhira who depend on the Sundarbans for their livelihood. There are BLCs. About 50,000 people are directly and indirectly dependent on them.
"We have not received any instructions from the higher authorities regarding the cooperation of the Amphan-affected foresters. Besides, we have not been asked for any list from the Fisheries Department. However, we are still preparing a list of losses to foresters," said Abul Hasan, Satkhira range forest officer.
Khulna divisional forest officer Bashir Al Mamun said access to the Sundarbans is not closed.
However, fishermen and moualis, who want to go, are being encouraged to go fishing in compliance with the health rules. Forest department personnel have continued to work to raise health awareness among them.