May 25, 2024, 7:36 pm

Poor navigability in Jamuna jeopardizes northern waterways

  • Update Time : Sunday, April 28, 2024
  • 9 Time View
Photo: Collected

Swarnomoyee Mostafa Oishy:

With the beginning of dry season, the movement of water transports especially vessels, trawlers and boats is being hampered seriously at places in the northern region due to drastic fall of water level in different rivers including Jamuna and its tributaries.

As a result, the industry, trade, commerce, biodiversity and agriculture sector in the region are now under threat as well as the native species of fishes and aquatic vegetation are on the way to endanger. Besides, farmers in the region fear to face destruction over irrigation of their cultivable lands.

Meanwhile, many business establishments and Ghats located on the banks of different rivers have become closed putting the people of the locality at crisis.

According to the sources, navigability crisis has taken a serious turn at different places in the region as the water level of most rivers including Jamuna, Brahmaputra, Bangal, Korotoa, Boral, Hurasagor, Fuljhor, Ichhamoti, Atrai, Teesta and Ghaghot has fallen drastically that causes emergence of huge Chars (shoals) and massive change of the river routes.

In this situation, the people, who live in different remote Char areas, have been facing severe problems over their communications. They can’t move as per their need due to hampering of water transport movement in the rivers. Students suffer, while going to their educational institutions. Many elderly men and patients can’t reach to doctors or hospitals in time, while farmers and traders can’t transport their goods to different destinations including haats and baza’ars.  Though, few horse carts, battery run auto-rickshaws and motorbikes ply on different Chars, poor people can’t afford the fare due to their poverty.

Sources of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) said, the cultivation of hybrid species paddy was started in the country from the 1960s. Since the period, the use of shallow machines and power pumps has been escalated. Due to drastic fall of water, several hundreds of rivers, canals and Beels in the region have already been dried up. Dependency on irrigation has recently increased. Consequently, the level of underground water goes down, while the proportion of arsenic increases at places posing serious health hazards.

According to the survey report of a non-government development agency, there are over 1561 Beels including greater Chalan Beel in the region. But, most Beels’ existence is now under threat.

On the other hand, Baghabari-Aricha route is one of the important river routes in the country. Various goods including fertilizers, fuel and food grains are supplied to different places of 16 districts in the region through the route. But, the movement of fertilizer and fuel laden vessels is being hampered due to navigability crisis in Jamuna river.

BIWTA sources said, at least 10 to 13 feet depth is needed for smooth movement of water transports in the river. But, the depth has come below to seven to eight feet at different places for want of dredging. Besides, emergence of shoals and sub-merged shoals at different points of the rivers is obstructing vessels movement. Traders are being forced to carry their goods like fertilizers with several small boats after unloading from large cargo-vessels that adding extra cost and time.

Seeking anonymity, a leaseholder of Baghabari ghat in Shahzadpur upazila of Sirajganj district said, “Such situation has been created due to lack of dredging in the rivers. Now, water of the river has dried up and huge number of shoals has been emerged at different points in the river. Water transports especially trawlers and boats can’t carry goods due to changing of the river channels. Now, the trade and living of the local residents especially fishermen and boatmen have become very difficult.”

Altaf Hossain, a trader of the Baghabari ghat told The Daily Sky that, “We are facing trouble, while carrying fertilizers. Sometime, we are being forced to unload fertilizer sacks in the mid river with small boats and later those are being carried out to ghat. Meanwhile, a few cargo-vessels loaded with fertilizers have remained stuck up in the Jamuna river near Penchakola area in Pabna district. So, proper dredging in the channel is now only one solution. However, masters of different cargo-vessels have been asked to avoid risky points. If necessary steps are not taken right now, the situation may be worsened in future.”

Experts said, the desertification process of India is one of the crucial reasons behind the drying up of rivers and canals in the northern Bangladesh. Though, discussion on multi-pronged plans over water sharing between India and Bangladesh has been going on for long, no significant response has yet been received from the Indian government causing disappointment to the nation. Dwellers of northern region urged the government to take necessary steps over sharing of water from India as soon as possible.

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