People living in char (landmass emerging from riverbed) areas of the Teesta River in five upazilas under the district are badly suffering as boats that serve as their main mode of transport are lying idle due to drying up of the once mighty river.
Huge chars have developed on the Teesta bed as the river lacks water due to unilateral withdrawal of water from the upstream by India while much less than usual rain during this summer worsened the problem.
“Only a few years ago, we could travel by boat to go to the mainland when the mighty Teesta had sufficient flow. But now we have to walk long distances in char areas to reach important places like bazaars and towns,” Mazibar Rahman, 46, said during this correspondent's recent visit to Char Sholmari village in Kaliganj upazila.
Azizar Rahman, 65, of Char Goddimari village in Hatibandha upazila, said, "We are facing difficulty in carrying goods as boats cannot ply the river ways. Often we fail to get essential goods in the char area during this time.”
"Like me, many students do not attend classes regularly as we have to walk kilometres on the sandy char amid hot weather to reach school," said Sathi Akhter, 14, a Class IX student of Parulia High School in Hatibandha upazila.
Over ten thousand families of 40 char villages face communication problem during the dry season as boats cannot ply due to lack of water in the Teesta, said officials of Bangladesh Water Development Board in Lalmonirhat.
Drying of the Teesta, caused by India's unilateral withdrawal of water through closing the gates at Gozaldoba Barrage in the upstream of Teesta Barrage in Lalmonirhat, badly affects agriculture, environment, communication and livelihood in the northern region, said Farhan Uddin Ahmed Pasha, convener of Teesta Putro, a local organisation working to mobilise public awareness to save the Teesta.