The crisis has been triggered by a group of fish farmers who have constructed unauthorized dams to divert water from the Bariadah beel, authorities say
Around 4,000 local paddy cultivators have been facing financial hardships in Brahmanbaria's Bancharampur upazila as nearly 300 hectares of agricultural land in the upazila have been rendered uncultivable.
The crisis has been triggered by a group of fish farmers who have constructed unauthorized dams to divert water from the Bariadah beel, authorities say.
Despite repeated complaints, authorities have turned a blind eye to their problem. What is more annoying is the fact that these illegal elements have been recently restricting the movement of boats on the local beel, the farmers alleged.
The Fardabad-Rupsdi Dhibor Cooperative Association had taken the Bariadah beel on lease for three years from the local administration. However, one of its members has subleased the beel to illegal fish farmers, violating the lease agreement.
Those who illegally took the land on lease have erected bamboo fences with nets for farming fish on the four kilometre area of the beel. As a result, water hyacinths and weeds have got stuck on the arable lands, making a vast tract of arable land uncultivable, say the paddy farmers.
Abdul Jalil, who owns a small parcel of agricultural land along the beel, said he would need at least Tk 5k-7k for getting the hyacinths removed from water. "But we cannot afford to spend that amount as well. Moreover, using the beel is next to impossible these days," he said.
Mamun Mia, another affected farmer in Fardabad village, had the same story to share. “I used to harvest 300 mounds of paddy on my 15 kani land but it has now been rendered unfit for cultivation. Now, we (farmers) are staring at starvation."
All the affected farmers have demanded immediate action. "Steps to remove the dam over the beel are needed at the earliest," said Mohiuddin Ahmed Selim, the chairman of Fardabad union.
When contacted, Ismail Hossain Sujon, deputy-assistant agriculture officer of the District Agriculture Department (DAE), said some 2000 metric tons of paddy used to be produced from the farmlands every year. However, he admitted that now the production has come to a halt.
Authorities say action is inevitable. "We have given a deadline to the association to remove the dam and clear the hyacinths. If they fail to comply with the order, necessary steps will be taken," said Mohammad Nasir Uddin Sarwar, Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Bancharampur.
Pison Das, a member of the Fardabad-Rupsdi Dhibor Cooperative Association, assured: “We will clear the weeds and hyacinths."