The government should take steps for proper management of groundwater to save the Barind region from scarcity of water, demanded speakers at a virtual meeting yesterday.
Arbitrary abstraction of groundwater is causing crisis of drinking water in the region covering 16 northern districts, they said, demanding review of the laws that hinders actions against the practice.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association (Bela), Rajshahi chapter organised the discussion titled "Steps to control arbitrary groundwater abstraction".
Bela programme coordinator AMM Mamun chaired the discussion while head of programmes Khurshed Alam moderated it. Around 50 discussants from different northern districts took part in the programme.
In his speech, Prof Chowdhury Sarwar Jahan of Geology and Mining Department of Rajshahi University, said the country's groundwater was never managed.
In the Barind region, extraction of groundwater has become unsustainable, he said.
"Demand for water for drinking, agriculture and industrial purposes is increasing whereas the groundwater is ceaselessly depleting in the aquifers," said the professor.
Prof ANM Wahid of Law and Justice Department at RU said there are flaws in the law that allows groundwater abstraction as taking legal actions against such permission is difficult for common people.
"The law should be reviewed and made people oriented through public hearings," he said. A separate law should be enacted to manage all the natural resources, he added.
Tanmay Sanyal, coordinator of Rajshahi unit of Bela, presented the keynote paper and said Barind Multipurpose Development Authority began extracting groundwater in 1985.
BMDA has so far installed some 15,553 deep tube-wells by which it withdraws 2583.62 million cubic metres of groundwater annually to irrigate at least 5.25 lakh hectares of farmland. Now the private users of deep tube-wells have doubled than that of BMDA, the paper said.
Referring to a Department of Public Health Engineering report, the keynote paper said groundwater table in Dinajpur has been declining by 3 to 4.5 metres in every 10 years.
Groundwater in the district was available at 6.26 metres in 1985, while the level went down to 41 metres in 2019.
It said the annual rainfall in Barind region is 44 percent lesser than the country's total rainfall of 2500mm and it has been reducing since 2004.
Development activist Rashed Ripon also spoke on the occasion.