Living on new land: Char development in Bangladesh

From IFAD social reporting blog Sat Feb 2 2013, 05:03:00

The coastlines of Bangladesh are constantly moving. Surveys, based on satellite images, have shown that each year there is a net accretion of around 20 km2: newly formed land of about 52 km2 minus eroded land of around 32 km2. With an assumed density of 800 people per km2, this means that each year approximately 26,000 people lose their land. For many of them, the newly accreted land, or chars, as these new-emerged lands are called in Bangla, offers an alternative home. The Char Development and Settlement Project IV (CDSP IV), jointly funded by the Government of Bangladesh, IFAD and the Government of the Netherlands, works to support the women and men to build their lives on this new land.

"The living conditions on the chars are harsh," explained D. K. Chowdhury, who works as the technical advisor on land settlement for CDSP IV. "The land is completely inaccessible and can only be reached by boat and foot. The people living there are exposed to nature and due to the daily tides, the land gets flooded on a regular basis.There is no safe drinking water, no health service or sanitation, no agricultural inputs, no education, no legal or social structures. When occupying the land the women and men will most likely have to face the Bahini, local power groups, who take over the control in absence of any adequate administrative structures). These Bahini often press for money and take away agricultural products, livestock or other household properties."

"A family who loses its land by erosion loses everything. There is no legal entitlement for compensation. The newly accreted land becomes property of the government [khas land]. The only chance a family, whose land has been washed away, has, is to receive some khas land from the government, often after prolong persuasions."

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