Kurigram, Sept 1 (UNB) - Sand is being extracted illegally from the Dudhkumar River right under the nose of the administration, leaving the lives of 120 families under the threat of riverbank erosion.
Locals said a syndicate in connivance with Upazila Parishad man, Shafiqul Islam, has been continuing illegal sand extraction for about two weeks now.
They said accidents are taking place in the river everyday due to a pipe placed in the river for extraction of sand.
During a visit to the area, the UNB correspondent found that sand is indeed being extracted illegally from the Dudhkumar at Nurani Para near Jatrapur Bazar in the sadar upazila.
Locals told UNB that the entry to Jatrapur Bazar remained got blocked due to silt deposited at the mouth of the Brahmaputra, leaving the Dudhkumar as the only means of river communication with Jatrapur Bazar.
More than 300 inhabitants of the chars (lands created by accretion in a river course or estuary) in the region go to nearby Nageshwari-Ulipur-Roumari-Chilmari and Rajibpur upazilas using the narrow Dudhkumar River.
Locals have become panicked as sand is being extracted using a dredger in this erosion-affected area.
Last year, the Water Development Board filled the embankments with geo sandbags and piling works on Dudhkumar at a cost of Tk 3 crore to tackle erosion at Nurani and Farazi Para areas.
The residents of the area said the syndicate began extracting sand by putting dredger in that river in the same area where the work was done by WDB. They said written complaints were sent to the Deputy Commissioner, Upazila Parishad Chairman, UNO, WDB and Kurigram Press Club in this regard.
Ironically, it was Shafiqul Islam who visited the spot on August 21 on behalf of the administration, ostensibly to have the pipe removed. Later, after he left, the dredger was operated throughout the night, according to local journalists.
The machine was found in operation by the UNB correspondent and other journalists when they visited the spot on August 26 and then again on August 29.
Local residents said the contractors are lifting sand for use in the construction of a four-storiey building of nearby Chakenda Khanpara High School.
Those involved with sand business declined to speak on record, saying that besides ruling party activists, sand is being extracted at the instruction of influential people of the school committee.
Boatmen Enamul of Jatrapur, Mahalom of Doikhawar and Kamal of Char Jatrapur said it is taking them an additional 30-40 minutes to ferry passengers through the river due to the dredger. Besides, accidents are also taking place.
Jatrapur Union Chairman Ayub Ali Sarkar said the machine had been removed once earlier following the protest of the villagers.
“However, they again began extracting sand by setting up the dredger on the opposite bank,” he said. “It has been obstructing the movement of boats and causing accidents.”
Contacted over phone, Kurigram Sadar UNO Nilufa Yasmin told UNB, “You said sand is being extracted. But our men are saying that the dredger has been removed. Now who am I to believe?”