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Illegal sand extraction continues to harm Halda River ecology

  • Published at 02:50 pm February 11th, 2020
Halda River is a river in south-eastern Bangladesh Dhaka Tribune

The river is also Bangladesh’s largest natural breeding ground for carps

Despite ongoing drives against unauthorized dredgers and mechanized boats at the Halda River, illegal sand extraction continues unabated, posing a serious threat to the ecosystem. 

Hathazari Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Ruhul Amin conducted a drive at Indira Ghat on Monday and seized an unauthorized dredger for sand extraction from the river.

Earlier on November 26, another sand-lifting dredger was seized from the same spot of the river.

According to local analysts and spawn collectors, the use of sand-extracting dredgers and mechanized boats in the river is responsible for the death of a number of broodfish and dolphins in recent times.

They say fish and dolphins are often injured and killed after being hit by the propeller of engine-run boats or sand-extracting dredgers. 

Law enforcement officials seize a sand-lifting dredger from the Halda river in Chittagong | Dhaka Tribune

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Hathazari UNO Ruhul Amin said that the authorities were conducting drives regularly to ensure a preservation of the aquatic ecosystem in the river.

“Since my joining, I have conducted 87 mobile courts till February 10 of this year. We have seized a total of 7 dredgers, 12 engine-run boats, and 1.05 lakh cubic feet of illegally lifted sand from the river. We have also taken punitive action against the offenders on multiple occasions. It is our bounden duty to conserve the river and ensure an undisturbed spawning environment," said the UNO.

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, District Fisheries Officer Farhana Lovely said: “In order to spawn, different species of broodfish migrate to the spawning ground of the Halda from different rivers. The sand extraction through dredgers damages the riverbed thus broodfish cannot spawn as they do not find a congenial environment. The loud noise from dredgers is dangerous for the broodfish and dolphins. Moreover, aquatic animals are killed when hit by the propellers of the dredgers and mechanized boats.”    

Prof Dr Manzoorul Kibria, professor and coordinator of Halda River Research Laboratory, hailed the Hathazari UNO for his untiring efforts in protecting the river. “The UNO has been putting his maximum effort but it is not possible for one person to keep a round-the-clock vigil on the Halda River. Locals along with the local public representatives and the beneficiaries of the river must come forward to protect the river.”  

According to findings by the Halda River Research Laboratory, currently the number of river dolphins will not exceed 1,200 across the globe. Of the total number, some 250 dolphins are found in the Halda River.

The official status of the river dolphins, locally known as Shushuk [Platanista gangetica] is “critically endangered” as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is a universally recognized index of the world’s endangered animals.

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