The Teesta River has almost completely dried up due to a drastic fall in water levels during the current dry season.
The unusual fall in levels has been attributed to a barrage in India, upstream of the Teesta Irrigation Project at Dalia, Lalmonirhat. It is alleged that India uses the barrage to divert the river’s natural flow.
Bangladesh Water Development Board sources said water levels started falling last September creating several sandy shoals on the riverbed that have an adverse effect on agriculture, communication and livelihoods.
Hindrances to navigability have caused 5,000 people living on shoal villages in Sundarganj upazila to suffer. Miles and miles of the region now face the threat of desertification, said Dudu Miah, a dweller of Char Horipur, in Sundarganj.
According to Golam Mostafa Ahmed, chairman of the Chandipur Union Parishad of the Upazila, over 150 boatmen along 30 routes on Teesta River have become unemployed.
Mohini Kanta Das, a fisherman of Belka union said a number of fisher folk living on the river basin have also become unemployed and many of them have already taken other jobs to support themselves.
Upazila agriculture officer Satyen Sen, said vast tracts of land along the riverbank remain uncultivated for a lack of fertility.
Local people want the government to enter into a water sharing agreement with India as early as possible and revive the district’s dwindling water supply.