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Coastal NGOs issue Open Letter to local MPs

Bangladesh faces enormous loss every year caused by erosion and tidal water intrusion due to lack of enough and permanent embankment across the coast. People migrate to the cities in big number having everything lost to the river or sea. Unless the coastal land is protected with the permanent embankment 35 million of coastal people will remain in endless risk. Today in a press conference at the National Press Club in Dhaka the Alliance of the Coastal NGOs raised this points as they issued an open letter to the coastal MPs and request them to demand enough budget for the embankment.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of COAST Trust moderates the press conference while Shakat Ali Tutul presents the key points of the Open Letter to the coastal MPs. Other speakers in the press conference are Alauddin Shikdar from Patuakhali, Shabnam Hafiz and Masud Alam from Borguna, Badrul Alam of Bangladesh Krishok Federation.

In his presentation Shawkat Ali Tutul raises 8 points demand on behalf of the alliance and those are: (1) Emergency and short term allocation for the coastal embankments for repairing and rebuilding in FY 2014-15; (2) Allocation for long term to build permanent and sustainable embankments in the coastal area. For example 60b Taka for Bhola and 65b Taka for Cox’s Bazar is required for a permanent solution. (3) Ensure transparency in institutions including Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) and in the tender system to save at least 20% of cost drained by corruption. (4) Deploy the Army if necessary in emergencies. (5) Encourage people’s participation to ensure the transparency and accountability in the embankment construction. (6) Ensure information disclosure and complain management on the ongoing embankment constructions. (7) Ensure the pro-people attitude of the BWDB and other public institutions and make them reportable to the local government. and (8) Above all, consider protecting coastal land and people’s lives from river erosion and tidal intrusion as the central to the development planning.

Alauddin Shikdar, the peasant leader from Patuakhali says, farmers and the agriculture will be the worst affected if the land keeps eroding and finally the nation will lose the food security. Shabnam Hafiz of Somaj says, many taxes are exempted for the ministers and rich people but the cost for building embankment to save 35 million coastal people is considered as a burden.

Masud Alam of DOCAP says, there are many modern examples of building embankment like Netherlands. We need not only modern technologies of embankment building but we also need to check the huge corruption in this sector.

Badrul Alam of Bangladesh Krishok Federation says, we should not depend on the foreign aid for this embankment building. We should do it with our own resources. Because there are hard conditions laid with the foreign aid and loans to serve their own interest.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of COAST says as the moderator of the press conference, we have engineers and river experts of international level in Bangladesh and we should involve them in this regard. He adds, the engineering core of Bangladesh Army has proved their ability in Sirajganj Town Protection Embankment and Marin Drive in Cox’s Bazar. So, we can take the support from them where necessary. He emphasizes on making BWDB reportable to the local government for ensuring transparency, accountability and avoiding system loss.

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