Building of fish enclosures as a means to encroach on canals, waterbodies and even rivers is plaguing the country in recent times. The plague has almost reached epidemic proportions in Khulna’s Botiaghata upazila.
The farmers, for whom the canals were primarily built, now face scarcity of irrigation water as flow of water in all 10 canals in the upazila are constricted by either the enclosures or by illegal structures.
Influential locals built at least 90 such fish enclosures in six-kilometre-long Daskatia canal alone, depriving hundreds of farmers in Khalashibunia, Hatbati, Hogolbunia, Pathoriaghata, Baroiabad, Hatalbunia and Dakkhin Sailmari villages.
Prasad Roy, a farmer in Khalashibunia village, told this correspondent that over two hundred farmers rely on the canal round the year. But lately, especially during dry season, the canal is drying up.
“It’s all because the enclosures are obstructing its water flow at various points [of the canal],” he said.
Dhirito Sundar Roy, a resident of the same village, said they raised the issue of illegal encroachment to upazila nirbahi officer (UNO), upazila agriculture officer and chairman of union parishad several times, but all to no avail.
The number of enclosures on the canal continue to rise instead, he added.
This correspondent during a visit to Daskatia canal last week noticed almost two thirds of the canal’s both banks in Kacharibari area were occupied by a local by the name of Krishna Biswas.
Krishna Biswas however refused to respond to the correspondent’s query over the illegal structures he made on the canal.
Similar to the fate of Daskatia, around 50 enclosures are causing obstruction to water flow of Botiaghata-Hatalbunia canal.
In Jalma union, most canals are suffering from poor water flow due to setting up of various structures on its sides by locals.
Speaking with this correspondent, Khokon Golder from Jharbhanga village said water flow in Putimari canal is being obstructed by a number of enclosures and dams.
A group of influential locals leased the canal by showing it as cultivable khas land, he alleged.
“We’ve been urging the authorities concerned to free the canal by cancelling the lease in the greater interest of farmers, but no one is listening to us,” Khokon said frustratingly.
Acknowledging the alarming trend, Botiaghata Union Parishad Chairman Manoranjan Mondal said farmers are being unable to irrigate their agricultural land in time as most of the canals are encroached on by influential people under the guise of fish cultivation.
In Jalma union, locals alleged that UP Chairman Ashiqur Rahman, also a real estate businessman, illegally took possession of a large portion of Mohammad Nagar canal.
During a visit to the area, this correspondent saw concrete structures built on two thirds of the canal.
The correspondent was unable to take photographs of the illegal structures due to objections raised by followers and accomplices of the chairman.
Chairman Ashiqur, however, said, “I bought the land for a housing project. I didn’t encroach on the canal.”
Botiaghata UNO Ahmed Ziaur Rahman told this correspondent that he would make visits to the area and remove the enclosures and other illegal structures from government canals in the upazila.
Any lease being used to occupy any canal will also be cancelled, assured the UNO.