Dewchhara Beel: Once full of lives, now a wasteland
Dewchhara beel in Kamalganj upazila of Moulvibazar used to be a sanctuary for thousands of migratory birds and different species of native fish but for the last two years, the water body has not been frequented by the guest birds mainly because of poaching, depletion of water, siltation and abundance of bushes.
During the winter season, different species of native birds, including thousands of guest birds, used to roam here for a long time. But that is not the scene to be seen here now.
Joynal Mia, a resident of the area said, the waterbody used to be buzzing with the chirping of migratory birds at the beginning of winter every year. Although there are many other ponds and open spaces in the vicinity, the migratory birds used to roost in the beel. Sometimes they would fly in the sky in groups, and sometimes they would float in the water of the lake filled with water lilies.
He said that the number of birds on the beel has been slowly declining over the last six years. Last two years, the migratory birds have not been coming in the beel and there is hardly any fish here. Lots of native fish were also found in the past. Due to excessive growth of aquatic herbs and depleting water, the waterfowls have stopped coming here, he added.
Muhibur Rahman, a farmer from Dhupatila village near the Dewchhara beel, said, "Thousands of guest birds would flock the waterbody in winter every year. We used to wake up in the morning with the chirping of birds. From the time immemorial, there have been various species of birds including ducks and hawks."
The quality of water of the beel has exacerbated creating a shortage of food for the bird population. Therefore, the birds have stopped coming to the beel, he added.
He also said that some poachers are active with net and poison traps. Some are fishing in the beel violating rules. These have harmed the roosting of guest birds in the waterbody.
He expressed concern saying that many species would be extinct as the hunters are using poison traps.
Nurul Muhaimin Milton, general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Sanbadik Samitee of Moulvibazar unit, said that aquatic animals including fish and guest birds are now in dire straits.
The miserable condition of the water body is causing irreparable damage to local agriculture, aquatic life and biodiversity, said Durud Ali, a social worker from Keshuluti village.
Jubel Ahmed, general secretary of Dakshin Dhupatila Fishermen's Cooperative Society Ltd, said that due to the shortage of water in the beel, birds are not coming here.
"We have long been demanding dredging of the waterbody for the sake of agriculture and fishing," he added.
Kamalganj Upazila Fisheries Officer Siddiqur Rahman said, "I have heard that this place is a wonderful place for birds and fish. The population of birds and fish can be increased by excavating the Dewchhara beel. Proposals have already been sent to the higher authorities for its excavation."
Sylhet Divisional Forest Conservator Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of the Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Department said, "I will try to take the next step by visiting the place."
Kamalganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Ashekul Haque said, although the proposal was sent earlier, it is yet to be approved.
"However, I will try to take initiative to increase water supply by renovating the reservoir in Dewchhara through the Upazila Agriculture Department," the UNO assured.