Six excavators plunder the sand of Jhalkathi’s Sugandha river day and night, destroying three villages

By ‘managing’ the administration, a group under the umbrella of some local Awami League leaders has been taking sand from the Sugandha River year after year. Despite the absence of a government-mandated sand dump, a group in Jhalkathi is freely extracting sand from the Sugandha river. Three villages, along with the city protection dam, are under threat of erosion due to sand removal from different parts of the river. The local people fear that the city’s Qutubnagar bus stand may also disappear under the river at any time.

According to Section 4(c) of the Sand and Soil Management Act, 2010, dredging for sand or soil extraction or marketing may cause erosion on any river bank.

Local people say that a gang under the umbrella of some local Awami League leaders has been taking sand from the Sugandha River for years by ‘managing’ the administration. Due to the resulting erosion, the people of Diakul, Kistakathi, and Deuri villages are losing their habitations, as well as their croplands. The administration reports that they are conducting raids, arresting and fining dredger (excavator) workers upon receiving information about sand mining.

Talking to the concerned people, it is known that this cycle of sand extraction is centered in the Launchghat area of the city. The sand extraction business involves a gang of at least 16 people. Each wheel has a sander. Abdul Haque Khalifa, the former president of the city Jubo League, oversees and controls the entire operation. Apart from this, the district Jamaat member and former municipal councilor Md. Mujibur Rahman too. Hundreds more sand traders are doing the business of filling the city’s ponds and sinks by collecting sand from them.

Some sand traders said that there are excavators for taking sand from the river. Boats are used to transport this sand, and another machine is used to fill the pond or reservoir from the boat. The people involved invest in these three sectors according to their abilities. The first tier traders have six excavators. Others own sand-carrying vessels. They paid 20 paise per cubic foot of sand to three people, including Abdul Haque Khalifa. It collects about two lakh taka per day.

Abdul Haque Khalifa, the former president of the City Jubo League, has denied involvement in this sand business. He said, “I am not involved in this business now. But their network is very big and strong.

Due to illegal sand extraction, Kistakathi, Diakul and Deuri villages have been affected by erosion. The homesteads of more than 400 families from these villages have disappeared under the river.

During a recent visit to the Jhalakathi launch ghat area, we observed workers using five-six excavators to extract sand from the river towards the west of the launch terminal. The workers are extracting sand from the river’s banks in numerous locations. Boats are crowding alongside the excavators, loading and unloading sand. These dredgers lift sand every day from afternoon to late night, delivering it to the urban area through pipes and trolleys in the morning. Delwar Hossain, a resident of the Launchghat embankment area, said that the Launchghat embankment protecting Jhalkathi city is under threat due to sand removal from the river.

I went to Diakul village in the Sugandha erosion area and talked with farmer Majid Ali and housewife Roksana Begum of Kistakathi village and many others. They said that due to illegal extraction of sand in the launch ghat area of the Sugundha River, Kistakathi, Diakul and Deuri villages have been affected by erosion. The homesteads of more than 400 families from these villages have disappeared under the river. Two hundred more houses are under threat of demolitionThe river has already submerged about 300 acres of cropland in the three villages.r.

Keramat Mia, a farmer in Deuri village, said that the village’s only government primary school, Kam-Ghurnihar shelter built in 2012 has already touched the river water. At any time it can be lost in the river. Sand mining has made a wheeler an overnight millionaire. Earlier, sand lifting was prohibited during the day but now it is being done openly. 

Salim Mia of Kistakathi village said, due to sand mining, the Kistakathi mosque and the mosque, madrasa and Kheyaghat of Diakul near Kheyaghat have already been lost in the river.

When asked to know, Sultan Hossain, a local Awami League worker who owns a dredger in the Launchghat area of Jhalkathi city, said, “Why should the administration stop us?” Where will they get the sand needed for their government’s development? We helped them with this sand. Now we are selling sand at 5 taka below and 10 taka above per cubic foot depending on the location. Many people besides me have dredgers. It has costs. Therefore, the cost per foot of sand is higher. We will halt all development work if we discontinue this project.

Anuja Mondal, the Jhalkathi Sadar Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), stated that the Sugandha River has not received an official silt declEven at night, the sand continues to rise. f night. The operation to stop illegal sand extraction continues. We will not make any concessions to the sand lifters. We have conducted several campaigns for this.