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“Now we have nothing. The power plant took away our canal and destroyed our houses. Now, the children cannot go to school.

Minara Begum

30 years old, Barankujonpara, Taltoli

Writer and Photographer: Fabeha Monir

My daughter, Khukumoni, is 13 years old. Last year, we had to marry her off due to poverty and fear. When, last winter, our house and everything was taken by the power plant, we lived on the road for a month. My daughter didn’t want to marry. She cried a lot. She said, “Mother, I want to go to school. Let me go to school”. With a 13-year-old girl, how long could you stay on the road? No one gave us shelter.

We have one daughter and one son. We had everything. My husband used to catch fish and sell them in the bazaar. My son always went with him. My son always bathed in the canal before returning home. My daughter used to go to school. I served them rice and fish fry. I had two cows. I had date palm plants, ambarella trees, guava trees…we had around 50 trees all around our house. Now we have nothing. The power plant took away our canal and destroyed our houses. Now, the children cannot go to school.

In the new village, there is no road. We must walk through knee-deep mud. They forced us to move into the wetland and destroyed our canal. Now, there is waterlogging. We tried to save our home. No one has eaten properly in the last six months. My husband sold his rickshaw. I sold our cows. We did keep the boat. Now, though, the boat cannot go anywhere. Now, we stand in queue to collect drinking water. For 85 families, there is only one tube well. We had a tube well at every house. I have heard there will be something big on our land. Our ancestors were landless people. Forty years, our families were living there. All of us cried and asked them to run those machines over us but not our land.

It’s better to die than to live like this. Now we live in the new village. The ground shakes at night. From a one-mile distance, we hear the noise of the power plant. We cannot sleep at night. The day when my husband went to search for work in the power plant, I cried a lot. I could not accept that we need to beg for work from the people who took everything from us. My husband can’t work properly. He suffers from chest pain. I try to catch fish. Nothing comes in the fishing net. My son, Tauhid (8), sits with his plate and asks for food. I give him rice and salt. I heard they will destroy our forest. That forest is saving us from storm and calamities. During Cyclone Aila all our belongings were destroyed. Since we have had this forest, big storms can’t harm us.

I never heard the name of China. For us, they are foreigners. They came for business. The local administration, government, and Chinese company–no one cares about poor people like us. They only see profit. When I go near the site, my eyes get wet. How many days we will cry like this? Our house, our past, present, and future have been taken away. We are only alive for our children. When work starts, our children will get sick because of pollution. My son told me they will fill up all our ponds with sands. My son wants to know why we are not having fish anymore. Our village is turning into a desert. We have no peace in our mind. Children are not going to school. There is no place for them to play. All the time we are living in pain and fear. I cannot give the answer to my son’s questions. I don’t know how we can survive.