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Dried-up riverbeds allow new crops in northern districts

  • Published at 01:18 pm December 5th, 2013
Dried-up riverbeds allow new crops in northern districts

A vast tract of the dried-up beds of the Brahmaputra, Teesta, Dharla, Ghaghot, Jamuna and other rivers, has been turned into crop fields during this Rabi season.

Landless people have been cultivating various crops on these char lands (dried-up riverbeds) and along the river basins in recent years.

According to sources in the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) and the NGOs, over 70,000 hectares of dried-up riverbeds could be used to cultivate wheat, maize, mustard, boro, vegetables, and other crops this season.

“Crop cultivation on these lands has been taking place as the drying up of the rivers has led to the emergence of massive silt deposits,” Horticulture Specialist of the DAE Khandaker Md Mesbahul Islam said.

However, the drying up of the rivers has been continuing at an alarming rate - a result of the adverse impacts of climate change and the lifting of underground water.

Dr MA Mazid, associate director of agriculture at BRAC International (South Asia and Africa) said: “People are cultivating crops on the river beds. But we have to take steps to revive water flow in the rivers to keep the environment, agriculture, bio-diversity, and ecology for the future.”

Agriculture and Environment Coordinator of RDRS Bangladesh Mamunur Rashid said continuous drying up of the rivers during the past four decades is the outcome of climate change, which poses formidable threats to every sector including agriculture.

Akbar Ali, 46, from the village of Char Montola, Sultan Mahmud, 50, of Korai Barishal, Survan Bibi, 44, of Kheruar Char and Asar Uddin, 55, of Goynar Patal on the Brahmaputra in Chilmari upazila, said a bumper crop production was expected this year.

Landless farmers Razzak, 65, Anisur, 33, Kuddus, 50, and Khairun Nesa, 49, of village of Bengulia in Polashbari upazila said they had been achieving a bumper production of Boro and other crops cultivated on the beds of Kartoa river in recent years.

The dried-up riverbeds in certain areas have an eye-catching greenish look, with young and tender plants like maize, wheat, tobacco, mustard, and others.

“Navigation routes and bio-diversity have been facing a big threat both upstream and downstream, due to the diminished flow of water in the rivers and tributaries,” they added.  They emphasised that revival of the water flow was essential to have navigable waterways, and to save the environment.

In Rajshahi, the emergence of chars (sediment deposits) in the Padma River has also brought good fortune to many farmers in Paba, Godagari and Bagha upazilas of Rajshahi.

Farmers in the district are happy as the chars, deposits of alluvial silt, have brought them the opportunity to cultivate various crops and vegetables.

The river bed of the Padma in some of the villages, such as: Majardiar, Khidirpur, Khanpur, Lotabona and Shayampur under Paba upazila; and Char Asariadaha under Godagari upazila; has dried up with only narrow pools remaining among the sediment.

Over the past two decades, farmers have been planting trees like mango, jujube and banana on these char lands, but now they are cultivating crops including paddy, wheat, lentils, sesame, mustard; and vegetables including peppers, onions, garlic, brinjals, cabbages, tomatoes and potatoes.

This year, they are preparing the char lands for Boro cultivation.

The farmers said the char lands now contained more alluvial sediments as a result of the last monsoon, this has encouraged them to cultivate Boro paddy.

However, Golam Mostafa, a farmer of Char Asariadaha village, said they are facing problems cultivating Boro because there is no fertiliser or fuel dealer in the char villages. He said carrying fertiliser, fuel and other commodities to the char lands was troublesome, as no vehicle would travel over the half-dried lands.

According to sources in Paba upazila agriculture office, last year farmers of Char Majhardiar cultivated Boro on around 1,500 hectares of land and char farmers of Khidirpur cultivated 3,500 hectares.

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