Away from Home

Momotaz Begum is sitting in the yard of her temporary house on the bank of the river in Barishal district, August 31, 2021. “I will never forget how all our belongings vanished in an instant. There were houses, there was also paddy, but everything was lost in the river erosion. When a house is burnt, ashes remain, but nothing remains in the river erosion.”
Momotaz Begum is sitting in the yard of her temporary house on the bank of the river in Barishal district, August 31, 2021. “I will never forget how all our belongings vanished in an instant. There were houses, there was also paddy, but everything was lost in the river erosion. When a house is burnt, ashes remain, but nothing remains in the river erosion.”

Bangladesh is situated in the delta of the Ganges- Brahmaputra-Meghna river systems, the largest river delta in the world. More than 160 million people live in the delta of Bangladesh and depend on its distinct landscapes for their living. This delta is highly vulnerable due to river erosion. Across Bangladesh, thousands of families have been rendered homeless because of river erosion. It is estimated that about one million people are affected each year by riverbank erosion. Rivers took away their existence. Their shelter, security, memories, belongings and everything they had is lost. River erosion compels people to migrate or leave their place of origin and destroys the livelihood, cultural heritage, and social fabric of entire communities. Displacement is the instant effect of river erosion. When they are displaced from their place of birth, they are disconnected from their source of income, and other livelihood options, forcing them to take up new livelihood activities. Many of those arriving in city areas end up in the urban slums with rudimentary housing conditions, very high population density, and poor sanitation. Many are again located on the embankment of the river or nearby char villages.

There are about 4 million displaced people in the country who live a floating life. People displaced by river erosion experience extensive socio-economic poverty and marginalization as a result of forced displacement from their place of origin. Victims have been cursed by displacement for a long time. They are never able to build a proper house to protect themselves from erosion. gradually sinking into the abyss of uncertainty. Poverty is the utmost outcome of river erosion. River erosion makes poor people poor again and rural poor become urban poor.

Mahinur Begum standing in front of her shelter, lives on the bank of the river in Barishal District, June 17, 2021. “Now we have nothing. The river took away everything except this house. We somehow managed to live in this space with fear. We are living vulnerably. I am worried about coming days.”
Ayub Ali Hawladar standing in front of his makeshift shelter in the coastal area of the Barishal district, September 4, 2021. “My house has been destroyed by river erosion. I had a lot of land but all the land has been taken away by the river. Water comes into my house every day. I have no land anywhere else. Now I do not know where I will go.”
Rongila standing on the bank of the river in Barishal district, September 4, 2021. “All my land is washed away by river erosion. I am very unlucky, I have no son, I have no husband, I am a widow. Everything is taken by the river, there is no place to go. There is no place to bury me after I die.”
Kajol Hawlader standing on the bank of the river in the Barishal district, June 17, 2021. “I lost everything that was created by my father and grandfather to river erosion. Many from my village have gone to other places. Now I do not know where I will go. I am in a lot of trouble with my family. God knows what will happen.”
Shajahan standing on the bank of the river in Barishal district, September 4, 2021. “All of my land is washed away by river erosion. I used to earn some money and run my family. My earnings have been hampered by river erosion. I don’t sleep for the fear that anytime my house may be taken by the river.”
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ArtIQulate is a publication associated with the Adenauer Fellowship, a scholarship programme by the Media Programme Asia, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Ltd.
About the author

Nahid Hasan

Alumni, Diploma of Visual Journalism, Asian Center for Journalism

Nahid Hasan is a documentary photographer, visual journalist, and filmmaker based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His main interest lie in human rights, and social, cultural, and environmental issues. As a photojournalist, he regularly contributes to BenarNews, Pacific Press Agency, and NurPhoto Agency.

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