Built a century ago, St Joseph’s Catholic Church could be swept away by the river, together with five villages. Heavy flooding and unfettered sand extraction by construction companies are the main causes. Caritas is already pressuring the government to find a solution, helping families, and providing volunteers to shore up the river banks. The local bishop has visited the affected area.
Mymensingh (AsiaNews) – Erosion along the Someshwari River is threatening a Catholic church and at least five villages.
Heavy flooding as well as unfettered sand extraction are endangering St Joseph's Church, which is located on a hill next to the river, and five villages (Kamarkhali, Ranikhong, Baheratuli and the Baroikandi villages, Netrakona district).
Due to erosion, many people have already lost land and homes whilst a village has had to be relocated to another area. Residents spend day and night in uncertainty and extreme fear.
"I don't know where we could go,” said a fearful Milita Ruram, one of the victims of the erosion. “I was under the illusion that my house and village could be saved, but we live in constant danger. At any moment our house could be swallowed up by the river.”
Milita is from Baroikandi. During the day she and her family try to shore up the banks of the Someshwari, but they cannot sleep at night out of fear.
“In addition to worrying about essential needs, we must fight the river’s erosion. I don't know when our hardships will end,” she explained.
The river makes no difference in terms of religion. Nozrul Islam, a local Muslim farmer, said his home was wiped out by the river. Now he and his family live with relatives.
Recently, Bishop Ponen Paul Kubi of Mymensingh visited some eroded areas and asked Caritas to help the victims every way they can.
“At least one Catholic church and hundreds of people are at risk,” said Apurbo Mrong, Caritas regional director in Mymensingh, speaking to AsiaNews. “But as an NGO we cannot find a satisfactory solution to this enormous problem. Only the government can face it and solve it.”
Apurbo Mrong recalls that the issue involves not only climate change and increasingly severe floods, but also companies that extract sand from the river without restrictions. "Politicians and businessmen are involved," he said.
At present, the greatest risk touches St Joseph’s Catholic church, which was built in 1912, and 4,500 faithful, mostly ethnic Garo.
Caritas is primarily trying to pressure the government to intervene. The Christian charity is trying to be close to residents by distributing aid and deploying its volunteers to shore up the banks of the river.
Caritas donated some 3,000 takas (US$ 35) to 200 families affected by erosion. In addition, on 3 October, a group of Caritas volunteers worked together with locals to repair the weakened banks of the Someshwari in the village of Kamarkhali (Netrakhona).
A total of 51 people – 42 men and 9 women – took part in this work, which was appreciated by local officials and the media.
Caritas also raised funds, some 40,000 takas (US$ 470) for the Committee against the erosion of the Someshwari River.