The tragic demise of Tangail’s waterbodies
Tangail, once known for its picturesque waterbodies, now finds itself in the clutches of an alarming environmental crisis. Over the past three decades, this district has been transformed into an unforgiving concrete jungle at the cost of its rivers and open spaces.
Environmentalists have blamed the insatiable greed of the people, the indifference exhibited by a section of public representatives, and the sheer negligence demonstrated by the responsible authorities.
Tangail's natural drainage system, a lifeline that has sustained the municipality for 134 years, now lies in ruins, a casualty of rampant and reckless development. The consequences are dire, with the town's residents now grappling with the agonising aftermath of chronic waterlogging and its accompanying tribulations.
As we observe World Environmental Day today, it is a stark reminder that the urgent need for action cannot be ignored any longer.
LOUHAJANG RIVER FILLED UP
According to locals and environmentalists, the 76 kilometre-long river has already been filled up in the municipal area with waste.
Originating from the Dhaleswari at Baisnabbari in Sadar upazila, Louhajang flows through the district town and falls on the Banshi at Jamurki in Mirzapur upazila.
Till the '80s, launches and goods-carrying boats plied the river, said locals.
During a recent visit, this correspondent witnessed the waterless river bed filled with bushes.
Additionally, the continuous dumping of industrial waste from mills and factories at Taratia, Bhatkura, and Khudirampur in Sadar upazila pollutes the river water so badly that locals can't utilise it.
Thus, the river's aquatic life has disappeared while odour from its stagnant and filthy water made living near the river a living nightmare.
Writer and environmentalist Masum Ferdous said illegal encroachment of the riverbank narrowed the river, especially in the municipal area. The river immediately needs dredging, he added.
27 CANALS LOST
Citing cadastral survey, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela) officials said 27 canals flowed across 18 Tangail wards even three decades ago. As the canals were lost to urban sprawl, the natural drainage system has been destroyed, which resulted in perennial waterlogging.
With the Louhajang losing its navigability, many canals turned waterless, and have become vulnerable to encroachment and pollution.
The municipality has built roads, drainage, and markets, killing these canals. Shaym Babur Khal, also known as Victoria Canal, which runs through the town is one of them.
The 5km canal used to flow into Burai Beel from Louhajang in Paradisepara.
In the 1990s, the municipality dug a drain on the 30-foot-wide canal from Paradisepara to Godown Bridge, allowing interest groups to claim the site permanently.
After 2001, the municipality built multiple concrete markets on the drain, ignoring objections from locals and environmentalists.
Green activists said the municipality is carrying out drainage work over the rest of the canal at Biswas Betka, killing it in the process. Beradoma-Kagmara canal also faced the same fate.
SM Sirajul Haque Khan Alamgir, mayor of Tangail municipality, said they are building drains on the Biswas Betka and Beradoma-Kagmara canal to meet the demand of locals and ensure proper drainage.
However, Tangail's River, Canal, Waterbodies Protection Committee member secretary Ratan Ahmed Siddique advised against such development works. He said most of the town's drains are clogged with rubbish.
"Many canals have disappeared and others will soon perish unless strict measures are being taken against encroachers. Besides, many canal lands have been filled. Though the canals remain on official documents, they were grabbed a long time ago," he said.
Bela divisional coordinator Goutam Chandra Chanda said the canals must be recovered to restore the natural drainage system and prevent waterlogging.
BURAI BEEL NEARING ITS DEMISE
For decades, garbage has clogged Burai Beel, a natural waterbody in the eastern section of the town.
"Three decades ago, we could fish and bathe in Burai," said Goutam, a resident of Biswas Betka.
Wishing anonymity, locals said influential people have filled the waterbody at different spots, claiming its ownership.
"After being informed about that, we foiled a bid to fill up the beel," said Tangail Deputy Commissioner Jasim Uddin Haider.
"We have taken a vow to protect the natural waterbody and ordered officials to evict the illegal structures," he added. "The administration has also ordered the office of the AC (land) to protect all waterbodies to save the environment."
Contacted, Sadar upazila AC (Land) Atunu Barua claimed that they were working on it.