Once turbulent Dhaleswari now cropland | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 17, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:59 AM, June 17, 2021

Once turbulent Dhaleswari now cropland

The dried-up bed of once turbulent Dhaleswari river at different places in Tangail is being used for cultivation. Local farmers are using the river beds for cultivating different crops including paddy and vegetables.

In some places, there is still some flow but it is so polluted that it cannot be used for any purposes including irrigation to crop fields.

Vehicles, including sand-laden ones, are seen plying on the dried-up riverbeds.

The Dhaleswari river is a 160-kilometer-long distributary of the Jamuna river. It starts off the Jamuna near the northwestern tip of Tangail district.

After that it divides into two branches; the north branch retains the name Dhaleswari and merges with the other branch, the Kaliganga river at the southern part of Manikganj district. Finally, the merged flow meets the Shitalakshya river near Narayanganj district.  The combined flow goes southwards to merge into the Meghna river.  

During a recent visit, it was seen that the bed of the once turbulent Dhaleswari river has turned into a green pasture with crops-- including paddies, mashkalai, and peanut etc-- at different places in Sadar and Delduar upazilas.       

Several villagers including Saiful Islam of Char Pakulla and Jahangir Alam of Mahmud Nagar said once upon a time, the depth of river was lot; boats used to ply during the dry season also. But now the river has almost died due to siltation and lack of water from upstream. Water remains on the river only during the wet season for three to four months.

As a result, the local people cultivate paddies and vegetables on its dried-up bed, they said.   

Not only Dhaleswari but also most of the rivers in the district show similar pictures during the dry season as silting and pollution are leading them to gradual death. 

Most of the rivers in Tangail district are heading towards the same destiny as the riverbeds remain waterless for nearly half of the year.

The main rivers in Tangail district are Jamuna, Dhaleswari, Jhenai, Bonshai, Louhajang, Elengjani and Bairan.

The rivers were full of a variety of fish while ships, launches, big merchant boats piled the rivers that had strong flow throughout the year only about four decades ago, said several senior citizens.

River ways were used as means of easy and cheap transportation of goods to from and the district, they said.

Big merchandizing boats laden with thousands of maunds of jute from different districts came to the ghats of different rivers in the district, including Elasin Ghat on the Dhaleswari river in Delduar upazila and Nolin Ghat on the Jamuna river in Gopalpur upazila as many governmental and non-governmental jute purchase centers were set up there.

But all these are past stories and now boats can ply on the rivers during the rainy season. As only a little water is available during half of the year, the river transportation system in the district is in a disarray.

International water expert engineer SI Khan, a resident of Basail upazila in the district who had worked at the United Nations, said that the amount of water flow in Jamuna River has reduced a lot due to withdrawal of water from the upstream.

The situation affects other rivers in the district including the Dhaleswari that has also silted up and as a result, their water containing capacity has greatly reduced, he added.

Riverside fishermen and boatmen communities, who are mainly dependent on the rivers for their livelihood, are the direct victims of drying up of the rivers during the ongoing dry season.

The rivers now see very little fish resources as their sanctuaries have been destroyed.

Syed Irfanul Bari, general secretary of Bangladesh Chapter of the International Farakka Committee, also blamed withdrawal of water from upstream by constructing dams including at Tibet by Chaina and at Assam by India for the sorry state of the domestic rivers.   

He also said although most of the rivers in Tangail are dying but no step is yet to be seen to save them. Besides losing navigability, the rivers are victims of mindless pollution and grabbing by the influential quarters.

Sanowar Hossain, lawmaker in Tangail Sadar, said they have already talked to the Water Resources Ministry in this regard. The several rivers including Dhaleswari, Louhajang and Jhenai were divided in three categories--A, B and C. The Dhaleswari river was kept in A category.

The excavation of the river and also the works to construct the bank protection embankment will be done as soon as possible, he said.

Goutam Chandra Chanda, a senior research officer of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (BELA), however, said the main problem is restraining water flow on Jamuna river during the dry season from the upstream. The river also needs excavation and it is so costly.

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