Water flow in Borohar canal, the primary source of irrigation in 11 villages under Patuakhali’s Kalapara upazila, is being constricted due to illegal dams allegedly built by a section of influential locals.
At least 20,000 farmers are dependent on the canal flowing through Dhulashar and Latachaplee unions.
Its water was used for agriculture and household chores but some six years ago, a union parishad member built a dam on the canal near his residence and started fish farming, according to locals.
Many others followed suit and built several dams on the seven kilometre long canal stretching from Tulatali sluice gate to Ghoja village in Kuakata. As a result, the flow was blocked and some 50 pond-like water bodies emerged, they said.
A farmer of Latachaplee village Abul Hossain said, “We face serious crisis of sweet water during dry season. Water remains stagnant in the rainy season as it cannot flow through the sluice gate anymore.”
“We are suffering greatly because we are not being able to use the water. The grabbers filled up the water bodies with saline water for fish farming but we need sweet water to irrigate our land,” Omar Faruq, another farmer of the village, said.
He urged the authorities concerned to take steps to remove the dams for the farmers’ sake.
Similar accounts came from the farmers of Thoupara, Natunpara, Boroharpara, Gongamoti, Asalatpara, Mombipara, Musulliabad, Husenpara, Mishripara, and Tulatali.
The union council member in question is Shah Alam and some of the other ‘influential grabbers’ are Khalil, Chunnu Mia, Sagir, Abdullah, and Abu Mia, according to locals.
They are wealthy people and thus farmers are scared to raise voice against them, locals told this paper.
This correspondent contacted all of them but only Shah Alam agreed to speak on the matter.
He said, “I had taken the canal on lease from the upazila land office. I will remove the dam only if the office asks me to do so.” The UP member, however, failed to show relevant documents when asked.
Anup Das, assistant commissioner (land) in Kalapara, brushed off Alam’s claim that he took the canal on lease. “All these dams are illegal. We are taking legal steps to free the canal. Its natural flow will be restored at any cost.”
Ansar Uddin Molla, chairman of Latachaplee Union Parishad, said, “All illegal dams should be removed considering the inconvenience to the farmers.”