Seasonal sawmills bring relief to Kurigram char residents

Residents of Char Jatrapur, a remote river island or char in Sadar upazila of Kurigram, used to spend an excessive amount of money on transportation when they had to buy timber or wooden planks from the mainland for their homes or boats.

The situation has improved to some extent after a seasonal sawmill has started operating near the river dock on the Brahmaputra char about ten years ago.

Instead of travelling two to eight kilometres to reach a sawmill on the mainland, the residents of Char Jatrapur have been getting what they need from their neighbourhood sawmill and at the same time, saving time and money.

Ashraful Islam, the owner of the mill, said he has been running the sawmill — powered by a shallow diesel engine — on Char Jatrapur for nearly four months every year over the last ten years.

The mill is operated from mid-January till mid-May and when the mill is closed down, its main parts are taken apart and stored in a safer location.

As a resident of the char, he feels obligated to ensure that locals are benefited by the mill and that is the reason why the service charges at his mill are same as that at sawmills on the mainland, he also said.

Nader Islam, who operates ferryboats at the river dock in Char Jatrapur, said timber is in high demand in the char as several hundred ferryboats as well as fishing boats need to be repaired and many new ones built every year.

The sawmill in Char Jatrapur has been of great service to locals with its affordable timber and wooden planks, he added.

Locals said more and more new sawmills are being set up on remote chars on the Brahmaputra these days.

Farmer Atiar Rahman, from Char Parbati, said timber is an essential commodity that is used not only to build new houses in the chars, but also to repair hundreds of homes that get damaged every year due to floods.  

Thanks to the local seasonal sawmills, those days are gone when they had to spend a hefty amount of money to bring in timber from distant sawmills on the mainland, he also said.