Changing water levels distress Teesta dwellers | The Daily Star
12:03 AM, September 17, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Changing water levels distress Teesta dwellers

Changing water levels distress Teesta dwellers

Two villagers taking away their domestic animals in the safe area on Kolar Bhura (vessel is made by banana trees) as flood water from the rive Teesta submerges their houses during the rainy season at char Sindurna village of Hatibandha upazila in Lalmonirhat. Photo: Star
Two villagers taking away their domestic animals in the safe area on Kolar Bhura (vessel is made by banana trees) as flood water from the rive Teesta submerges their houses during the rainy season at char Sindurna village of Hatibandha upazila in Lalmonirhat. Photo: Star

“The Teesta River is an unending source of problems for people living near the banks and surrounding villages of Lalmonirhat,” said 86 year old Nahur Ali Munsi who lives in the Gobordhan char village of Aditmari upazila in Lalmonirhat. He also went on to say “Our grief comes from the fact that the Teesta doesn't provide any water during the dry season and completely floods the land during monsoon”. Another farmer, 80 year old  Hafez Uddin Miah of char Boirati village at Kaliganj upazila in Lalmonirhat, said “It's not possible to cultivate the lands for IRRI-boro paddy due to lack of water for irrigation as the river Teesta dries up during the dry season, and during the monsoon, the flood damages our Transplant aman paddy as well.”
Residents of the Kalmati char village in Lalmonirhat Nabir Hossain(65), Mafiz Uddin(62), and Tamiz Uddin said “To connect to the mainland requires walking atleast 5 kilometers in the dry river bed as the Teesta has been drying up for the last ten years, leading to massive inconvenience for us. Before, the water from the Teesta was a vital element in our livelihood and agriculture.”
Official sources from Bangladesh Water Development Board BWDB in Lalmonirhat said that the river Teesta dries up every year from October, lasting for 8 months, till June, as there is only 200-300 Cusec of water in the river even though that number was 10,000 Cusec 10 years ago in the dry season. The monsoon brings about a very dangerously high level of water flow, leading to massive flooding in the chars and surrounding low lying villages.
BWDB sources also said “During the monsoon, India opens all the gates of their Gajoldoba Barrage, which leads the water from upstream to come into the borders of Bangladesh and causes massive floods, and during the dry season, India keeps their Barrage gates closed, which leads to the drying up of the Teesta.”
84 year old fisherman Jitin Chandra from Khuniyagachh char village in Lalmonirhat said, “Many fishermen become unemployed during the 8-9month dry period of the Teesta every year. While the monsoon does bring better fishing opportunities, it also brings about massive flooding which causes its own misery.”
75 year old char farmer Sekher Ali Mandal at Char Goddimari village of Hatibandha upazila said that he leaves his 20bighas of char land during the dry season because farming on it is impossible due to shortage of water for irrigation. Crops that grow in the monsoon are also damaged due to the rise of water levels. “We char farmers have been facing this issue for the last 10 years. Earlier, we benefited greatly from the Teesta as it provided stable water all year round,” he said.
Afzal Hossain (65), of char Sindurna village of Hatibandha upazila said that the Teesta has managed to devastate the economy of the people living in the shoals of the Teesta. “We don't get water for bathing in the Teesta River during dry season, but we can't go out in fear of flood water from the river Teesta during monsoon,” he said.

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