Cropland is decreasing at an alarming rate in Natore as farmers have been digging pond on their agricultural land for fish farming to earn more profit.
Agricultural land in the district has reduced by about 8,437 hectares in the last eight years, said Subrata Kumar Sarker, deputy director of Natore Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE).
There was 1,54,961 hectares of cultivatable cropland in 2012-2013 but it has decreased to 1,46,524 hectares this year.
Subrata Kumar also said, "Natore is a grade one district in agricultural production. The district grows about 50 percent of the total production of garlic, and about 40 percent of moog dal (lentils) in the country."
Defying a High Court order, pond digging on croplands is continuing at a massive rate.
Following a writ petition, the HC on May 12, 2012 directed to stop pond digging to save the croplands in five upazilas of Natore.
Agriculturist Sayeda Bodrun Nesa, also lecturer of Varendra College in Rajshahi, said, "Most of the farmers in Natore and Rajshahi cultivate three to four kinds of crops on their land in a year. If we fail to protect the croplands from any conversion, it will bring serious repercussions for agricultural production in near future."
Jahangir Alam, district fishery officer (DFO) in Natore, said, "No one should destroy their croplands. If a farmer shifts to fish farming and digs pond on his land for more profit, then he will suffer eventually. Because it will be impossible in future to convert the pond into cropland again."
The total fish production has increased to 64,000 tonnes in the 2020-2021 fiscal year while it was 40,000 tonnes in 2010-2011, he added.
Jahangir Hossain, a farmer of Ramnagar village in Sadar upazila, said, "We are digging ponds on our croplands because fish cultivation is more profitable than crops. Deputy commissioner and superintendent of police have given us verbal permission and asked us to supply the soil to the brick kilns."
Abdul Quddus, lawmaker of Natore-4 constituency and also president of Natore district unit of Awami League, said, they are trying to save the croplands but the administration is not doing enough to stop pond digging on the croplands.
Denying the allegation, Natore's Deputy Commissioner Md Shahriar said, "We, on regular basis, have been conducting drives to save the croplands but could not control it yet."