Many fishermen in the district are changing their ancestral profession because they are not able to continue doing it as all the small rivers and beels in the district have dried up, and the major rivers Teesta and Dharla are following.
They are taking up jobs of rickshaw pulling, farm labourers or day labourers and other menial work for earning their livelihood.
Ranjit Chandra Das, 52, a fisherman of Dowani village in Hatibandha upazila, said they became jobless from the second week of October this year as all the 16 small rivers, 45 beels and other water bodies dried up early, but they had caught fish from these water bodies till December last year. “We are also not getting fish in two major rivers as they are also nearly dried up,” he said, adding that their boats are lying idle.
“It is a bad time for us as we are without income and we have no alternative to earn a livelihood except catching fish,” said fisherman Nur Islam, 58, of the same village. “There was low rainfall this year so local water bodies did not get enough water and dried up early,” he added.
Ruhidas Chandra Das, 45, a fisherman of Kulaghat village in Sadar upazila, said the small river Ratnai is their source of earning, but it dried up early this year, as a result they are facing job crisis. “Some of us are now buying fish from fish farmers and selling them in the local market, but the earning is insufficient to maintain my family,” he said.
Fisherman Nabin Chandra Das, 50, of the same village, said he has started driving rental battery-run rickshaw in the town. “I invested Tk one lakh for buying nets this year, but I did not earn even 50 percent of the investment,” he added.
Delowar Rahman, 45, a fisherman of Sarpukur village in Aditmari upazila, said he is going to change his profession from fishing because it is a bad time for fishermen as the small rivers, beels and other water bodies are dried up. “It is now rare to get river fish in the local markets,” he added.
“Now we have no chance to continue our ancestral job of fishing as rivers and all other water bodies are without water,” said Narayan Chandra Das, 67, a fisherman at Majhipara of Kaliganj upzaila. “I have already changed my profession, and am working as farm labourer,” he said.
District Fisheries Officer Rezaul Karim said there are 5,350 fishermen families in the district, adding that most of them are dependent on fishing from boats in the water bodies, while the others are engaged in farming fish in the ponds.
“Fishermen get lease of government water bodies, but almost all of those are dried up,” he said. “Some listed fishermen are under the government's safety net programme, and they are given support,” he added.