Tidal River Management (TRM) is needed to reduce waterlogging in the south-west of Bangladesh, but river excavation is going on
By Zeba Tarannum
Bangladesh: TRM is closed for 6 years. There is more rain this year. The waterlogging area in Jashore-Satkhira has increased two to three times.
The monsoon is gone. But the six Upazilas in the south-west has not yet been freed from the dangers left by the monsoon. About 1 million people there are still waterlogged.
Their homes, crop fields, life, all seem to be floating in waterlogging and tidal waters. The question is, will people be able to stay in that coastal zone, or will they leave the area after being destitute?
According to the experience and knowledge of local people, the recommendations of the expert committee of the government agency Water Development Board, the opinions of the country’s top water experts, and the research of international organizations, Sustainable dam construction and free Tidal River Management (TRM) are cited as the effective ways to solve the problem of waterlogging in the south-west. But the government is not working on this. They are working on river excavation.
Shivapada Biswas is a resident of Dumurtala village in Abhaynagar of Jashore. His ancestral home and crop field are underwater. He said that due to TRM (Tidal River Management), the water did not rise here till 2012. The nearby Mukteshwari River also deepened.
With the water receding, travel, agriculture and trade have increased in that area. But since TRM has been closed for five-six years, water is not receding from about 100 villages in this area. His complain, “The government is pouring hundreds of crores of taka into the river (digging the river), but it is not doing any good. On the contrary, the river is dying.”
The Koira dam in Khulna broke in April but has not been repaired yet. And TRM has to be done to remove waterlogging; it is the most successful way. Everyone says that, but there is no TRM in the government’s new project to remove waterlogging.
The project worth Tk. 550 Crore taken by the Bangladesh Water Development Board BWDB) to alleviate waterlogging in the Bhabdaha, a major part of it covers river excavation, and construction of various infrastructures. There is no TRM in the projects taken for Satkhira Sadar, Asashuni and Tala. However, locals are skeptical about how far it can be implemented.
Ainun Nishat, an Emeritus Professor at BRAC University, said waterlogging in the southwest would not go away without TRM. The TRM is the scientific and planned form of the eight-month-old dam used to manage silt and water in the area.
Excavation companies and contractors will benefit if only river excavation work is done without TRM. But the people of this area will not be free from waterlogging.
Reason of waterlogging
The construction of infrastructure in the rivers of the south-western part of the country without considering the natural and topographic structure is the result of waterlogging. In the sixties, for the green revolution, to grow paddy through the dam, permanent dams were built on tidal lands.
But the rivers here are mainly affected by the tides; like the sea, the water rises at high tide and decreases at low tide. As a result, sediment that comes with water cannot enter the mainland or swamps. They start to accumulate in the river.
On the other hand, the land in the south-west is new than any other part of the country. As a result, it shrinks rapidly and moves downwards. And as the silt is accumulating in the river, it is getting higher.
For that reason, about 3 million people of Monirampur, Abhaynagar, Chougacha, Jhikargacha, Keshabpur of Jashore District, Dumuria, Paikgachha, Koira of Khulna District and Satkhira Sadar, Tala, Asashuni and Shyamnagar of Satkhira District became waterlogged gradually.
How TRM eliminates waterlogging
In the eighties, to alleviate waterlogging in the south-west, locals cut the embankment at Beel Dakatiya. After cutting the dam, the accumulated water came out.
The agricultural land adjacent to that second-largest swamps of the country, which area is about 30,000 hectares, is free from waterlogging. At the same time, the navigability of Solmari, Hamkura, and Hari rivers increased. As the accumulated water recedes, the silt accumulated in the river is removed by the the natural current force.
Researchers at home and abroad have used Beel Dakatia’s experience, as an effective way to remove waterlogging; they cut off certain areas of the dam and made arrangements to allow water, and silt to enter.
As a result, silt falls in the swam, and the land elevates; Waterlogging eliminates and river depth continues to increase. Simarly, the waterlogging of Chougacha, Jhikargacha, Monirampur, Keshabpur, and Abhaynagar of Jashore District was removed.
Since 2007, waterlogging has started in the basin of the Kapataksha in Jashore and Satkhira. The Water Development Board has started TRM in several places, including Beel Bhaina, Pakhimara Beel, and Beel Kedaria. It has also succeeded. Tala and Asashuni in Satkhira and a large part of Paikgacha in Khulna are free from waterlogging.
Shahidul Islam, director of Uttaran, a Non-Governmental Organization associated with the movement to remove waterlogging in the south-west, said TRM had been widely tested as the most effective way to overcome waterlogging in the southwest. Every time the TRM has been shut down, Waterlogging has increased.
According to the Bangladesh Institute of Water Modelling (IWM), a water resources research institute, about 1.5 lakh hectares of land in the entire southwest has been freed from Waterlogging through TRM so far.
Simultaneously, about one lakh hectares of land has become two to three feet high due to siltation. At least eight rivers in the region, including the Mukteshwari, the Bhadra, the Morichhapi, the Kapataksha, and the Bhairab, have increased in depth.
Why the waterlogging increased this year
Compared to the previous two years, this year (2020), the waterlogging in the south-west is comparatively higher. In other years, 40-50 villages in Monirampur and Abhaynagar are flooded in June.
This year it has increased to 150 villages. Satkhira Sadar, Asashuni, and a large part of Paikgachha in Khulna have been waterlogged for four months. Although water has recently receded from most parts of Satkhira, locals fear it could resume in April-May next year.
Local water experts and private companies are blaming the lack of TRM. This year, more rainfall than usual and due to cyclone Amphan, water entered by breaking dams in different places has been blamed.
As the TRM was not operated, the water could not go down on one side, but on the other hand, due to heavy rains, the water was accumulated in different areas.
According to the Meteorological Department, it has rained more than 45% in the entire county this year. The rainfall in Barisal and Khulna divisions is 200 percent more than normal.
Last October, it rained 139% more than usual in Barishal and 23% more than usual in Khulna. Due to this rainfall, this time, waterlogging has increased.
In this regard, Deputy Minister of Water Resources A K M Enamul Haque said, “We are building sustainable dams, river excavating and TRM everything to protect the entire coastal area.” He said that if there is any shortage or problem, it will be rectified.
What the Water Development Board is doing
The Water Development Board has started working on a total of two projects since 2020 to alleviate waterlogging. One project worth Tk. 565 crore has been taken for Shatkhira and another project worth Tk. 430 crore has been taken for the Bhabdaha area of Jashore. Besides, another project worth Tk. 665 crore is waiting for approval. TRM was not included in any of these projects. But the other two do not have TRM.
By reviewing the documents of those three projects, it has been seen that most of the money is being spent mainly on digging rivers and canals, construction of dams, construction, and repair of waterways. In particular, the highest amount of money has been allocated for river excavating projects.
What should be done
The government’s delta master plan also states that TRM is the most effective way to alleviate waterlogging in the south-west. If this is implemented, waterlogging will be eliminated, and investment will increase in the region. At present, only one crop can be harvested in a year; if the water recedes, at least two crops can be harvested.
Due to nasty weather and waterlogging, there is no such investment over there. Although a number of sevarel industries have established towards Bagerhat centering the Mongla port, but there are almost no industries Jashore –Satkhira, as there is no waterlogging, Noapara of Jashore has become a major center of industry and commerce.
A fact-finding report on the waterlogging situation in the south-west was prepared last October by the private agency Uttaran and Water Committee. To alleviate waterlogging, TRM has to be implemented at Beel Kapalia, If the Amdanga canal is repaired, waterlogging will be removed.
Besides, it has been demanded to establish a free connection of the Hari River with the Teka and the Mukteshwari rivers. Simultaneously, it has been demanded to open the blocked rivers inside Poldar, and connect them with the Bhairab, the Kapataksha and Beel Dakatiya.
When asked the Bhabdaha Water Drainage Struggle Committee Convener, Anil Bishwas said sustainable dams and TRMs need to be implemented to save the south-west from desertification. Instead, big projects are being taken; money is being looted in the name of river excavating.
If of the people’s demands are not met and do not work together with the people, this area will not be free from waterlogging and desertification.