Forced to move again

Photo: Amiruzzaman/AAB

The river always takes our home away. We need to shift here and there about every six months.

Rojeha Begum tells her story during the book launch of People of Many Rivers. It is a compilation published by ActionAid Bangladesh and the University Press Limited with 32 tales by river people.

Rojeha is featured in the book. She lives in Lalmonirhat by the Teesla River in Northern Bangladesh. She has come to Dhaka to take part in the launch and unfold her story further. When her hushed voice captivates the audience, it becomes evident that her determination and strengths are beyond most others.

We have been forced to move and rebuild our home more than 25 times. We have no choice; we have to survive.

Before Rojeha left Dhaka for a 8-hour bus drive back to Lalmonirhat, she was asked if she still lived in the same place she used to back when we interviewed her in 2014.

We have moved again as the house and the land flooded during the monsoon this year.

While Rojeha Begum departs from Dhaka, thousands of others from the countryside enter the capital. It is estimated that every year 500 thousand people move to Dhaka from coastal and other areas of the country.

There are a number of socio-economic issues forcing people from rural areas to leave their home for the cities. But poor water management and climate change either causing huge natural catastrophes or silent degradation of land or farming opportunities are part of the reasons behind the migration patterns. In 2012, the Asian Development Bank made a study showing that climate linked to migration is distinctive because it happens involuntary, but that most people forced to move belong to the most vulnerable communities of their societies.

As Rojeha Begum leaves Dhaka, the question remains as to how long she and her family can withstand the pressure of constantly rebuilding their life on the riverside, and whether or not they will be forced to migrate to the city.

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