Korchar Hawor: A tale of service delivery and cooperation

(We often tend to complain that public servants are not giving their best to serve the people –but Mr Md Shafiul Alam, UNO of Bishoomvorpur proved it wrong. The incident took place during March – May 2010)

Almost every year like any other hawor at Sunamganj district, Korchar Hawor also gets flooded by the hilly surge. As a result people residing in this hawor area very often cannot harvest Boro – the only cultivable crop in the entire region. This regular surge adversely affects the economic and social life of the hawor people of eleven villages. Although there is a dam to protect the hawor area, erroneous work and untimely maintenance make the dam vulnerable particularly during March – May, the time when such hilly surge generally occurs. This year too, the situation was indifferent. Boro was about to be ripen – farmers were taking harvest preparations and were dreaming of a golden future. But all of a sudden hilly surge emerged and they had nothing to do but watch helplessly the inevitable destruction. The water was flowing over the danger level and nobody was there to revamp the dam, not even the people responsible to shield it from similar natural disaster. The people of Korchar Hawor- a remote place in Bishwamvarpur, Sunamganj were getting ready to meet their destiny – another season without Boro.

we can do it if you stay by our side - smiling villagers who volunteered the revamping

Lokman, gateman of the hawor thought earnestly and came to the conclusion that something ought to be done to save the dam at least for this time. Otherwise the poor and the destitute will have no other choice but end up by becoming beggars. He advised Aliman to inform all the villagers about the worsening situation of the dam. Hearing the news, all of them gathered near the dam. Tara Mia was frustrated like anything. He, in a downhearted voice said “Again we will not be able to harvest boro this time. All the hawors are under water and it is only a matter of time that Korchar Hawor will also be flooded”. However, Jamil was a bit hopeful and said “Uncle, don’t be so frustrated, we will save our hawor”. Tara Mia exclaimed “How! We have no resources”. In the time between, Lokman informed the UNO office about the vulnerable state of the people and appealed for help. Being informed, Shafiul Alam, UNO of Bishwamvarpur along with his officers rushed to the scene immediately in a bid to do whatever possible to save the people and their assets from the flood. Being very new at the upazilla, Alam found himself in a very difficult situation and was not very sure that he could emerge as an saviour in this extremely disastrous situation.

The villagers were about to lose their patience and were demanding a solution. Among them Jeetu and Aliman were most vocal. They said that they could not find anyone who could rescue them from such a catastrophe. WAPDA officials, the contractor who were, in fact, responsible to revamp and protect the dam were not available in times of real need. Mere revamping was done which was not enough to protect the hawor. Some workers alleged that they were not even paid. And the list of complains was growing longer so as the situation was worsening. The villagers were lamenting for boro – it was only a matter of time that their long awaited crop will be washed away by the rising surge.

The change maker - Md Shafiul Alam, the UNO

Understanding the urgency of the matter, the UNO, however, said that if the villagers were ready to work voluntarily, the upazilla administration would contribute by providing them with bamboos, sand, jute bags and other materials that are necessary to protect the dam. The villagers agreed to his proposal and started repairing the dam. They worked from dawn to dusk – sometimes even through midnight to save the dam.

Every day the water level used to rise and each time the villagers used to raise the height of the dam by 1-1.5 feet. The upazilla administration, in lieu of giving any wage supported them with dry foods like chira, gur and muri. Even biri was also provided to the workers. Suddenly a new problem emerged – workers who were mainly male left for harvesting Boro as they could not take the risk of losing everything. The administration tried to solve this problem by engaging the women folk for the same purpose. It was not; however, easy to convince them, but they too finally extended their cooperation and worked tirelessly just like their male counterparts and finally they were finally able to save the dam as well as the boro. Now they could dream of happy days – thanks to the team work between citizens and civil servants.

UNO Md Shafiul Alam can be reached at 01712125888

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