The Teesta has now become a barren shelf, a threat to the biodiversity of northern Bangladesh
By Zeba Taranum
Although the Teesta was supposed to have water in the middle of October, it turned into a shelf due to navigable emptiness caused by filling silt.
After visiting the Teesta basin area on Sunday, October 18, 2020, afternoon, it was seen that there were only sand beds all over the Teesta. Millions of people across the river are disappointed to see the consequences of the flood’s Teesta aftermath.
A month ago, the Teesta’s water flooded the lives of people on both shores, swallowed village after village, destroyed the crop fields sown by the hardship of farmers; that devastating Teesta has now dried up.
Before the end of the month, the Teesta seems to have dried up. There is no running boat; no fishermen like before, the river seems to be dead.
It was observed by visiting the spot; the Teesta’s navigability has deteriorated so much that it will be difficult to carry out irrigation activities at the Teesta Barrage in the coming Robi season.
The water is decreasing every day. Somewhere there is a little water and somewhere horizon shelf. Farmers are worried as there is no water from the Barrage to the Teesta’s 165 km area. Due to the non-implementation of the Teesta water-sharing agreement, every year, thousands of people are becoming destitute due to the huge flow of water coming from India’s upstream during the monsoon season.
It destroys the farmers’ hard-earned crop fields, also demolishing the dream home built by the day laborers who are living with hardships.
On the other hand, in the dry season downstream of the Teesta Barrage, India is unilaterally blocking water with the help of their Ghazaldoba Dam, disrupting the cultivation of millions of farmers in the northern region of Bangladesh.
As a result, the country’s largest Teesta Barrage irrigation project has become ineffective day by day. This has created a line of concern in the eyes of the farmers of this region.
In this situation, the irrigation dependent people of Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Rangpur, and Dinajpur areas have expressed their desire to save the Teesta River by realizing their fair share of water.
According to river researchers, the northern districts’ biodiversity is under serious threat due to excess water in the monsoon season and less water than required in the dry season.
In the rainy season, houses, schools, colleges, madrasas, roads, bridges, and culverts face erosion due to the overflow of water. And in the dry season, the shelf dries up. As a result, farming is decreasing, and the livelihood of the area’s people is changing.
This year, the shelf has been observed in different areas of the Teesta. Farmers are preparing to cultivate peanuts, sweet pumpkins, and watermelons on the shelf.
It is learned that the Teesta Irrigation Project was launched in 1998 at the cost of around Tk 10 billion at Doane in Lalmonirhat. The project was taken to irrigate ninety thousand hectares of land in 12 Upazilas of Nilphamari, Rangpur, and Dinajpur districts.
Md. Rabiul Islam, Executive Engineer of Water Development Board, Dalia Division, said, on 18th October morning, the water level at Barrage Point was 28,000 cusecs. But normal water flow requires 40,000 cusecs.
The area under irrigable land will be reduced this year due to low water flow. The affected people of the area are hoping, if the Teesta River’s water-sharing agreement with India is signed, they will no longer suffer.
Although they do not know what kind of agreement it will be, they think if there is an agreement, the Teesta River’s water flow will be within a system. Fishers have become unemployed due to a lack of water in the Teesta.
Quddus Mia (45) of Doani village in the Gaddimari union of Lalmonirhat district is making a living by fishing in the river. He said, “There is no water and fish in the river before the monsoon ends. I am in a lot of trouble with my family.” Jhontu Mia (40) of the same village said, “Even seven or eight years ago fish could be found.
Now the fish is declining every year due to a lack of water in the Teesta River. That is why many fishermen have left their ancestral profession and working as day laborers.” Shahinur Rahman, an assistant professor at the local college, said that the river dries up in the dry season as there is no Teesta water-sharing agreement.
Various chars can be seen. In the rainy season, a sudden downpour changes the course of the river and causes floods. It destroys houses, villages, markets, roads, educational institutions, bridges, and culverts. And ordinary people suffer.