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  • Chalan Beel under threat

    Chalan Beel under threat

    Chalan Beel, the largest wetland in northern Bangladesh, is losing its uniqueness for largely drastic fall in water level, continuous pollution and illegal encroachment. The navigability there has been badly affected for drying up of at least 16 rivers including Atrai, Nandakunja, Gumani and Boral. These rivers have turned into almost dead due to lack of water flow from upstream. “Save the rivers, save the environment” with the slogan, several organisations, including Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BPA), Boral Rakkha Andolon and Chalan Beel Rakkha Andolon Committee, have recently formed human chain. They had formed  a 220-Km long largest human chain from the mouth of the Padma river at Charghat area in Rajshahi to Baghabarighat in Shahzadpur upazila of Sirajganj district, said Mozibur Rahman Maznu, General Secretary of Chalan Beel Protection Committee.

    Sources said several rivers, canals and ditches of greater Chalan Beel region have been silted due to negative effect of Farrakka Dam and installation of a sluice gate on the starting point of Padma river in 1980 without proper planning. A survey of Chalan Beel Fisheries Project of Bangladesh government revealed that a total of 1,77,061 fishermen used to lead their livelihood by catching fishes from different rivers, canals and ditches of the Chalan Beel in 1982. By rotation, the number came down and reached 75,000 in 2006.

    There are reports saying that at least 6 to 12 feet of water was available in the rivers and canals of Chalan Beel during the dry season about 25 years ago. Boats used to move in the Beel for the whole year. But the navigability has dropped sharply in the rivers and canals of the Chalan Beel region for deposit of silts. According to a survey, about 2221 million cubic meters of silt enter into the Beel and 53 million cubic meters of silt leave during the monsoon each year.

    Dr. Abdul Matin, General Secretary of Paribesh Andolon and Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal, Coordinator of Boral Rakkha Andolon Committee said Boral is an approach point of the river Padma, Jamuna and greater Chalan Beel. It flows through the eight upazilas of four districts of the northern region. Once, the river was mighty and untapped. But, the river Boral has now turned into a small water body or wetland due to lack of smooth flow of water. The water flow has been seriously interrupted after setting up sluice gates and cross-dams in Atghoria and Chatmohor upazila in Pabna district by the Water Development Board (WDB) without any proper plan. Those installations have hampered the smooth flow of water.

    Fishermen said earlier they used to catch fishes for the whole year. But now, they go fishing only in rainy season. As a result, most of the fishermen in the region are now leading idle time and a miserable life with their families without income. “I used to ply a boat during the rainy season, but now I am using a Ghorargari (horse-driven cart) to transport people to different destinations in the Chalan Beel area. The Beel has dried up due to deposit of silts. Finding no way, I have left my boat and bought a horse and a coach to carry people,” said Surman Ali, 40, of Mohisluti village in Tarash upazila of Sirajganj  district.

    Leaders of Chalan Beel Rakkha Committee complain that some dishonest people in collaboration with some government officials are occupying different parts of rivers and canals of Chalan Beel and establishing illegal installations. Due to the apathy of the concerned authorities, the Chalan Beel is losing its previous glory, they said. Horendra Nath Sarker, District Fisheries Officer in Sirajganj, said  Chalan Beel is considered as a safe place for sweet water fishes. But the Beel is now dying due to manifold problems.

    To uphold the heritage of Chala Beel, people should be made aware about its ecological benefit. They must stop polluting and grabbing  lands in the Beel.

    Originally published in The Independent

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