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Demand for bridge met with culvert

'River with 18 turnings' now a 40ft stream

২০১৫ অক্টোবর ০৯ ১০:১২:০৮
'River with 18 turnings' now a 40ft stream

It is the Ghatbhog union under Rupsha upazila in Khulna district. The tributary of the Rupsha (Bhairab) river known as the 'Atharo Beki Nadi' or '18-turning River' flows through this upazila. The river was 14-kilomertre long and about one thousand feet wide. The people of the locality had long been demanding a bridge over the river for connecting the Shiali area with Sheikhpura Ghat. In the wake of the demand two ferries were arranged for communication of the local people. But the absence of any river training work and grab of land of the river led to deposits of silt brought by tidewater. Now the river, that once had 18 turnings, has turned into a 40ft emaciated stream. And for communication of the people living on two sides of the river a 50ft culvert has been built.

With its origin in the Alaipur village of Ghatbhog the river falls into the river Madhumati in Gopalganj. Situated on two sides of the 14-kilomerte-long river are Alaipur, Anandanagar, Goada, Doba, Bamandanga, Balty, Sheikhpura and Shiali villages. It has some rivulets also. There were 18 turnings along the course of the river. So, it was called Atharo Beki Nadi or river with 18 turnings. The river that once had a strong current was over one thousand feet wide. Even in 2007-08 it took 20 minutes for one to cross the river during the high tide.

The local people had long been demanding a bridge over the river connecting the Pithabhog village with the Alaipur village. At last in 2004 the work started on building a bridge over it.

On the other hand, the people from Shiali and Sheikhpura villages under Terakhada upazila had also been demanding a bridge over it for long. In view of the demand the then Awami League government arranged in 1996 two ferries at the point for easy communication. Trucks, vans and lorries carrying agri-products and other things to the Khulna city from the Shiali village under Terakhada upazila used the ferries. The people depended on the river for ninety percent of their trade and commerce activities in the Rupsha upazila.

Sometimes this river had been in an all-devouring mood eroding hundreds of acres of agriculture land and homesteads. Now these are all the story of the past. Once turbulent, this river is now not only an emaciated stream but also does not exist at many points. At the point where it originated from, the river hangs on to its existence. But downstream it has almost disappeared. At some places it has turned into ponds while the remaining river has silted up. Moreover, at some places in the river there are homesteads and paddy fields. At the place where there was a ferry station once, now there is a feeder road. The government has also met the demand of the people from Shiali and Sheikhpura villages. The government has met the demand by building a 30ft culvert instead of a half-a-kilomerte-long bridge.

While visiting the Rupsha upazila it has been learnt that the 18-turning river has disappeared in a span of only five years. Once turbulent, the river is now a story of the past.

Talking to the locals it has been learnt that the river started changing its mood in 2001. At that time the river started silting up during the rainy season. Initially the river water left the silts on the two banks of the river. With the two banks silting up, the river itself started receiving the silt deposits. Now the whole river has silted up.

With the river silting up, the local influential people also started grabbing its land. They are setting up homesteads on the river land and some people enjoying political leaders’ blessings are selling the land to the common people in the locality.

Talking to the local people it has been learnt that the river has disappeared within a short time because of silt deposits and the subsequent land grab.

A resident of the Shiali village identified as Pradip Biswas (30) told The Report, “We are not that old. Our parents and grandfathers told us the story of the river. Once, big launches, cargo vessels and barges plied the river. We also saw the river in its big size. We faced a lot of trouble while going to Khulna city crossing this river. It took a long time. We had long been demanding a bridge over the river connecting the Shiali village with Sheikhpura Bazar. We saw our parents and grandfathers raise their voice demanding a bridge over the river at the point. Later in 1996 two ferries were allotted for the people of the two villages. We used to cross the river by the ferries. But soon the river started silting up and within a short time the river disappeared.”

Pradip also said, “In 2007 the two ferries stopped plying, because the water level in the river fell. Later within a short time the river disappeared. Both banks of the river are now filled with silt and there is no trace of the river now. There is only a 20ft stream left. The LGRD Ministry has built a 30ft culvert over it. Maybe, this 20ft stream will also be lost someday.”

Talking to The Report, local resident and Ajgara High School headmaster Jashamanta Dhar said, “There had been once hilsa in the river. We heard of it from our forefathers. We also saw the local fishermen depend on the river for their livelihood. The fishes from this river not only met the demand in Rupsha upazila but also in Khulna city. There had been some ports beside the river. The people used this river for conducting their trade and commerce activities. Big cargo vessels and sand-laden barges used to converge at the Shiali station. Now it is history.”

Jashamata said, “Within a short time the river has silted up. We cannot imagine that such a big river has now disappeared. The river that once devoured hundreds of acres of farmland on its two banks now sees the riverbed being used for farming. When the river started silting up, no step was taken to save it. Rather, the local influential started grabbing its land instead of taking steps for saving it. The river has been grabbed in such a way that none will understand that once there was a river here. There is now a culvert over the river that we once crossed by ferries.”

Jashamanta also said, “Now homesteads have sprung up on the land which was once the riverbed. The local influential people are grabbing the land at their will. They are also selling the land to others.”

Wholesaler Shahidul Hawlader at the Kazidia Bazar under Rupsha upazila told The Report, “Since 1980 my father has been doing business at the Kazidia Bazar. I’ve been running my father’s business since 1996. I used to buy rice, pulse and other commodities from Khulna Barabazar before sending them to Kazidia by trawler. By the evening the trawler reached the Alaipur station with the commodities. We used to bring the commodities by vans from there to the market here. Now, the river is no more there. So, we depend on trucks for transporting the goods.”

One Abdul Rasul used to work as a coolie at Alaipurghat. As the river has dried up, no trawler now carries goods here. So, Rasul who once worked as coolie here, now runs a tea stall at the Alaipur market.

He told The Report, “When the river was alive, more than 50 boats and trawlers remained anchored here. We used to start work as coolies in the morning. It often continued throughout the night. There were about 100 coolies like me. Now they are all jobless. Now some of them pull vans, some work on farmland and some others have left the area for pulling rickshaws in towns. We used to earn more than Tk 300 a day by doing the job of a coolie (2001).”

However, Rupsha upazila chairman Md Kamal Uddin said a project of the government was going on for dredging the river from the Madhumati point.

He told The Report, “The government has approved a project for dredging the river from the Madhumati point in Gopalganj to Alaipur. The dredging of the river will start this November under the supervision of the army. All the illegal structures in the river will be dismantled. The boundary of the river will be delimited based on the survey and the records of 1930 and 1960.”

Ends/thereport24.com/AR/Oct 08, 2015