Streams run dry in Satchhari
Once upon a time, there were ever-flowing streams running through the Satchhari National Park.
Locals from the Tripura community caught different species of fish, including, rui, katla, puti and shrimp, from the stream.
Ranjan Devbarma, a 47-year-old forest guard from Satchhari, reminisced the days when a ceaseless stream flowed from Satchhari hill to Madhabpur river.
"I've caught boal, bain, rui, katla in the water of this stream. But those days are gone. The forest stream is now filled with the hill sand."
This correspondent recently visited Satchhari National Park and confirmed Ranjan's claims.
The stream has turned into nothing but a pile of sand. There's not a drop of water in the vicinity.
According to Muntasir Akash, lecturer of zoology at Dhaka University, there are three ponds in the forest -- two on the side of the road -- where there's a lot of tourist activity.
"This hinders wild animals from drinking water from those ponds and they only drink from the one pond inside the forest."
On top of that the canals and hill streams are drying up, which escalates the crisis even further, added Akash.
Local journalist Abul Kalam Azad said, due to water shortage in the forest during dry seasons, animals move to the locality, where they're subjected to torture from hunters and locals.
"This needs a permanent solution. Arranging artificial and sustainable sources of water can solve it to some extent," said Azad.
According to Mazharul Islam, an officer at Satchhari, said the total area of Satchhari National Park is 600 acres, and the forest was declared a national park on October 10, 2005.
"However, there's a huge crisis of human resources for maintaining the forest. It is currently being monitored by only five guards and one officer," said Mazharul.
The park includes rare breeds of animals, such as red jungle fowl, red-headed trogon, oriental pied hornbill and Japanese pygmy woodpecker, critically endangered hoolock gibbon, Phayre's leaf monkey and Asian black bears.
Several rare animals, including the endangered leopard cat, are often killed when they enter villages near the forest for food or water, added Mazharul.
Tofazzal Sohel, general secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon's Habiganj chapter, told this correspondent that deforestation is the main cause of water shortage in the forest.
"Unplanned sand extraction killed the water streams, causing soil erosion and reduction of water retention capacity. The streams are dried out every year between October and April."
"The authorities should dig ponds in the forest to retain water and protect the wildlife," he added.
According to Sohel, temporary embankments in the streams for five to six months can meet the animals' need for water to some extent. Otherwise, they'll be driven towards extinction.
Contacted, Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Sylhet's divisional forest officer, said plans are underway to build water reservoirs in Lawachhara and Satchhari forests.
"Owing to the rise in population and decrease in trees and rainfall, the water shortage has arrived. However, a proposal to construct these reservoirs has already been submitted," he said.