Illegal land occupiers are keen on using the freshly-formed river islands
The once flowing and vibrant Mogra and Dhalai rivers are now on the verge of death; this is due to the reluctance of local administration to solve the issue and a lack of dredging efforts in Netrokona.
There was a time when these two rivers had significant water flow all year long and light and heavy vessels navigated them.
Now there is no water in these rivers as chars (riverine islands) are forming and people, without alternatives, have started cultivating crops there.
Effective initiatives are yet to be taken—by the local authority concerned and the Bangladesh Water Development Board—to save the two rivers that are important for irrigation and transportation.
According to sources, the Dhalai River connects with the Mogra River near Doribinni village; starting at the Fatehpur ferry area and passing through Ramgopalpur, Chatrakona, and Binni areas; stretching four kilometres.
The other branch of the Dhalai River connects with the Kayjani River as it stretches for 30 kilometres while passing through the: Almasree, Rodroshree, Makhna, Shibpasha, Baroiura, Tiyoshshree, Basta, Chandratala, Rajtala, and Bashori areas.
Due to silt accumulation and a light flow of water in the rivers, illegal occupiers are using the riverbed to grow crops; they are cultivating paddy.
According to the locals, due to the unwillingness shown by the authority concerned, the culprits are slowly but surely killing the two rivers.
Addressing this very important transition of the two rivers, Fayez Ahmad Hridoy, a college student of the locality, said: "We have only heard stories about these two rivers. We are very unfortunate that we were not able to see Dhalai and Mogra rivers at their full glory. We urge the authorities concerned to protect these two rivers."
There are parts of the riverbed where there are pebbles, and some places have river islands, indicating a slow death.
People are planting paddy seeds and nourishing the seed beds right on these recently-formed river islands and low-water areas of the two rivers.
Recently, human chains were formed by different non-governmental organizations to raise awareness—among the local population as well as the authorities concerned—to protect and preserve natural resources and biodiversity via excavating and dredging the rivers.
However, despite the effort, the situation remains the same. To some, the fate of these two rivers are nothing but a sad demise, contrary to their glorious past.
Thus, various species of fish and aquatic animals are on the verge of extinction. Plus, the public is deprived of the benefits of this river.
Azim Mia, a farmer from Tiyoshri village, said: "The people living here on the river bank are suffering from a severe shortage of water. We cannot properly irrigate our farm lands due to it. We cannot take a bath nor can we perform household chores, as water is a must for all this; and it is in low supply.
"Besides, as the water flow is in constant decline, fishing in the two rivers has become a near-impossible task. The local fishermen are suffering greatly."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the locals told the reporter that there might be very intense unrest which could result in bloodshed; especially over issues relating to ownership of the river islands.
Bisu Barman, a fisherman from Hasanpur village, said:"I used to earn a living by fishing in the Mogra and Dhalai rivers. But, now the situation is so bad that I am broke and practically unemployed."
When asked about the illegal paddy cultivation on the Dhalai river bed, Inzil Khan, a farmer from Fatepur village said: "I have been cultivating paddy on the riverbed beside my own cultivation land. Until now I am not aware of any government instructions prohibiting me from cultivating paddy here but if there are any, I will definitely comply with them."
Environmentalist and Founder President of Madan upazila Press Club Motahar Alam Chowdhury said: "The expenditures of the people are increasing due to river erosion. People are being deprived of the benefits of the rivers. We urge immediate steps to begin the dredging of these rivers so that they live."
Addressing the issue, Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Waliul Hasan said: "We have already started our dredging projects to ensure better water flow of the Mogra River. The Dhalai River also needs extensive dredging. Bangladesh Water Development Board and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority officials are working very hard to resolve this very big issue."