Each year the Jamuna River starts to rise during The Barsha (Monsoon) season. Severe flooding from Glacier melting in the Himalayas and the seasonal Monsoon rains causes fast following currents to cut their way through the heart of the landscape. The waters erode hundreds of square km of land displacing thousands of people, who are forced to take refuge on char islands. Life is extremely difficult for these char dwellers, isolated from health care and other services on the mainland. There lives are subject to the will of the Jamuna. The inhabitants of the more established chars have become almost self sufficient as the silt that flows down the Jamuna brings with it fertility to the land allowing them to grow crops such as rice, chilli and potato to survive.
Mohammad Hatem Ali who lives on the Tengrakandi char, which has witnessed sever erosion in the last 10 days, is one of the many that have been forced to migrate further inland. The Jamuna is now on their doorstep. “We have been taking shelter in a neighbours house as our home is now unsafe to live in, unsure if it would be eroded whilst we sleep during the night.”
People living on the chars face a hard nomadic way of life, unsure of their future as they wait until the Jamuna has decided on their fate. Regular income is hard to come by and many migrate to Dhaka to work as seasonal workers, taking up work as day labourers, garment workers and rickshaw pullers in order to provide for their families. They will stay in the capital until they have earned around 2,000 – 3,000 BDT (£15-30), which is around 2-3 months wages, before returning to the chars.