Around 2,000 acres of land in six villages of Kalapara upazila may go uncultivated this season as a group of influential people has drained out water from a canal for catching fish.
The Patuakhali canal is the main source of irrigation during dry season for the six villages -- Chalitabunia, Binamkatha, Golbunia, Krisnapur, Machuakhali and Patua under Champapur union.
When salinity falls in the adjacent river during monsoon, sluice gates of the canal is opened to fill it up with water for irrigation during dry season. The sluice gates remain closed during dry season when salinity in the river is high.
Farmers in the six villages rely on the water from the canal to irrigate their land for cultivation of Boro paddy and various Robi crops in the dry season. They also use the water for household work as well as bathing their livestock.
Recently, the influential locals have opened the sluice gates and drained out the water, leaving only around a waist-deep water in the canal.
During a visit to the area, this correspondent found workers using nets to catch fish in the canal.
Farmers told this correspondent that although it is high time for starting Boro and Robi cultivation, they were unable to use the water in the canal as its level of water has fallen below the level of their land.
Requesting anonymity, they said Sohrab Gazi, Montu Gazi and Hanif Mridha are leading the group of people who are depriving the farmers of their rightful share of water by controlling the canal's sluice gates at will for their personal gains.
Kamal Mridha, former member of the local union parishad (UP), said the influential group of people did not pay heed to his request and they were wasting the water that is precious for farmers.
Farmer Masud Chowkider said the water in the canal has become so dirty that it is now unconsumable for even livestock and its water level is so low that they cannot bathe their cattle in it.
He also said he was worried that after their fishing is over, the group might open up the sluice gates during high tide to refill the canal with river water that is currently high in salinity.
Since water with high salinity is harmful to agricultural land, the authorities concerned need to take immediate steps to regain control over the sluice gates from the group with vested interest, he added.
When reached for his comment over the accusations, Sohrab Gazi, however, said they opened the sluice gates and drained out some water from the canal only to flush out water hyacinth.
Rintu Talukder, chairman of Champapur UP, said he was aware that the sluice gates were being controlled by a group of influential people and that he would speak with officials of Water Development Board (WDB) regarding the issue.
Contacted, Shahjahan Siraj, WDB executive engineer for Kalapara circle, said, “I wasn't aware of the matter. I will look into it and take necessary steps in this regard.”