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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Bangladeshis flee flood erosion
Brahmaputra river in spate
Constant flooding has eroded Bangladesh's islands

Authorities in Bangladesh say hundreds of thousands of people living on islands on the country's rivers will have to move within two days because their houses are close to being washed away.


Time is of the essence - they've got to get them all out in the next day or two

Donal Brown, British Aid official
The islands, knows as chars, are especially prone to erosion caused largely by flooding and global warming.

The British government has announced that it will back local efforts to alleviate the plight of at least two million people who live on the islands.

The inhabitants of chars are some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Bangladesh, where 80% of the population lives in extreme poverty.

Nearly 2,500 people on the island of Kajoli alone are in imminent danger of having their houses washed away by the Brama Putra, one of Bangladesh's largest rivers.

Imminent danger

Britain's Department of International Development (DFID) has said that it will work with Bangladeshi NGOs to avert the looming disaster.

A farmer wades across flooded fields
At least two million people are affected

"Time is of the essence - they've got to get them all out in the next day or two," said DFID spokesman Donal Brown.

Local officials say a mass evacuation is under way, but many are still stranded.

Rescue workers say villagers are distraught as they know that they can save themselves but not their houses or belongings.

One resident, Samina, said she has had to move house ten times in as many years, due to river erosion.

Her house once again is just a few inches away from falling into the river.

Marginalised population

River erosion, aid agencies say, has become far worse in Bangladesh because of flooding and global warming.

A report by DFID says the people living on the chars are the least served, and most chronically marginalised in Bangladesh.

Their problems are compounded, the report says, by the fact that there are no effective measures to help char-dwellers escape from persistent flooding and river erosion.

See also:

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