Fish Farming Through Fences in the Flowing Mukteshwari River, Bangladesh
The lease has been taken by showing the flowing river as” ‘Closed Reservoir.’ Landscaping fences have been provided for fish farming in three kilometers of the river.
Locals are not allowed in the river. Such an arrangement of fish farming by occupying the river is in the Mukteshwari river near Jessore city. It has been alleged that some local leaders and people’s representatives of the ruling party have been cultivating fish in this manner for three months.
The Mukteshwari River flows through the southern part of Jessore city. The fence has been started on the river bank from Balia Vekutia Bazar in Sadar Upazila, four kilometers away from the city. Another horizontal fence has been constructed next to the Abarpur Union Parishad area bridge, one and a half kilometers away.
Recently seen on the spot, the Mukteshwari flowing stream has narrowed. Somewhere 120 feet in width, somewhere about 150 feet. The people of the lease are seen guarding with tiny boats
There is a committee of residents called ‘Mukteshwari Bachao Andolan’. They have been agitating for a long time to keep the river open for the people by freeing it from occupation.
Committee member secretary Abdul Majed said the flowing river could never be leased. It is the wealth of the people. Only they have right in it. The government cannot lease it in any way. He demanded immediate cancellation of the lease and keeping the river open.
The Executive Engineer of Water Development Board (BWDB) of Jessore had written a letter to the Deputy Commissioner requesting not to lease the Mukteshwari river as a ‘flowing river’.
The letter was delivered on February 18 last year. But ignoring that letter, the then Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Shafiul Arif leased 103.66 acres of the river from Vekutia to Mandalgati for three years in favor of Pakdia Fishermen’s Cooperative Society at a meeting of the District Jalmahal Committee on June 4 at an annual lease price of Tk. 7,12,500 ( Tk.85= $1), approx).
On condition of anonymity, several residents along the river said the river was open. Many used to catch fish. Apart from that, they used the river for various needs, including bathing, irrigation, and green jute processing. The river has been uninhabited since last June.
The tenants preached to Mike, ‘The river has been leased so that no one in the public can enter the river.’ After that, when one or two people fell into the river, they were beaten. No one goes to the river now for fear.
It was learned that Pakdia Fishermen’s Association has 40 fishermen members. Most of them do not know about leasing rivers. Using the president and general secretary of the association, the ruling party leaders have taken leased that part of the river.
A total of 13 people are involved in fish farming in the leased part. Among them, Sarjit Biswas, president of the Fishermen’s Association, and Thakur Das Biswas, the General Secretary has two parts. The other 11 parts have been shared by the local leaders of the ruling party.
Among them are Ujjwal Rahman, a member of Abarpur Union Parishad (UP) and president of Awami League, Ward 6, Ashraful Islam, president of Awami League, Ward 1, and Amirul Islam, joint convener of Mir Firoz Union Juba League has a part by one.
When asked, UP member Ujjwal Rahman said, “It takes a lot of money to cultivate fish.
Fishers cannot pay that money. For this, we have partnered with them. Fishers have two of the 13 shares.
Ashraful Islam, a member of Arabpur UP and general secretary of Ward No. 1 Awami League, said, ‘When the fishermen’s association cultivates fish in the river, the local people trouble them. That’s why five or seven of us take care of them.’
Asked about not allowing ordinary people to enter the river, Sarjit Biswas, president of Pakdia Fishermen’s Cooperative Society, said, “Why should people be allowed to enter the river? We have leased the river legally from the government and spent a lot of money. It has been campaigning through mike for no one to enter the river. ‘
Khandaker Azizul Haque, the convener of Bangladesh Environment Movement (BAPA) of Jessore district, told Prothom Alo that the river is free; the river’s boundary is as far as the water of the river goes. There is no opportunity to cultivate fish with dams in the river.
The current Deputy Commissioner (DC) Tamizul Islam Khan said this part of the river has been leased before. The letter from BWDB was sent to the land ministry for not giving the lease. But no instructions came from the ministry.
That is why the river is leased in favor of the fishermen..