Once mighty Buri Teesta River now a dry canal People urges authorities to dredge it back to its former glory

Published : 29 Mar 2023 07:51 PM

Buri Teesta is a branch of Teesta River. It enters Kurigram district through Thetrai of Ulipur upazila and Arjun area of Daldalia union and joins Brahmaputra River in Kachkal area of Chilmari upazila.

Once upon a time, the trade and commerce of this region was developed around Buri Teesta River. Along with that, the life and livelihood of the people on the banks of the Teesta River was fishing in the Buri Teesta River. In the terrible flood of 1988, the sluice gate constructed at Gokaipier of Thetrai Union of Ulipur Upazila of the district went under the Teesta River. Later,  the Water Development Board constructed a dam at the mouth of Buri Teesta river. As a result, the normal water flow of Buri Teesta would be stopped. After encroachment and pollution, the once Buri Teesta River became a dead canal.

It has been found out that last 6 years ago 'Save Buri Teesta' movement was started by Ulipur Press Club and Rail, Maritime and Environment Development People's Committee. They have been demanding to dig the river and create its water flow and to evict the river squatters.

To ensure the water flow of Buri Teesta River, on March 13, 2017, human chain to protect Buri Teesta River, bicycle rally on March 21 and thousands of people held programs along the banks of Buri Teesta River on April 11 were held.

In view of the demands of the long movement and struggle of the people of Ulipur, under the Delta Plan program, the authorities have excavated about 80 feet wide and 31 km long at a cost of 16 crore 97 lakh taka.

Under the project "Re-dredging of small rivers, canals and reservoirs within 64 districts (1st phase)", the re-dredging work of Buri Teesta canal under Ulipur upazila was inaugurated on 13th March 2019, 4 years ago by the local parliamentarian Heroic Freedom Fighter MA Matin. The Bangladesh Water Development Board implemented the project at Kurigram, which was completed that year. The authority's plan was to install a regulator at the source of the river to carry the water flow after the excavation work, to ensure water flow even in dry season by constructing a pump house, to ensure water flow for IRRI-Boro cultivation and biodiversity protection on both sides of the river, to renovate the two banks of the Buri Teesta river and beautify it with sitting areas and various Planting various fruit trees. As a result, the dead Buri Teesta will come back to life. The people on both sides of the river were dreaming that water will flow again in Buri Teesta, crop production will increase, fishermen will get back their profession.

After visiting Daldallia, Dhammadhar, Kachkal and Ulipur municipal areas, it was seen that although the Buri Teesta canal was re-excavated, some areas in Thetrai, Daldallia and Dhammadhar union were badly rehabilitated.

Buri Teesta is on the way to lose its navigability in a short period of time due to non-renovation of the two banks of the river, cutting of the river bank in different places and turning it into a flat land, cutting away the soil from the bank - due to the lack of normal water flow of the river. At the time when the sight of fishermen in the river is full of sight, at the same moment the cow and goat pastures are seen on the chest of Buri Teesta. Fishermen's fishing nets are lying on both banks of the dry river.

Apan Alamgir, president of Ulipur branch of Rail, Maritime and Environment Development People's Committee, said that the main goal of our movement was that there would be water flow in Buri Teesta River from Thetrai to Kachkal. Lands that have been excavated in rivers to bring water flow are subject to acquisition and have become canals. He further said, "We don't want a canal, we want a full-fledged river which was there in the past." We do not want the current state of the river. Rather, many people have been affected by digging the river in this way. I wish for the good opinion of the authorities to remove the obstacles in the normal water flow of Buri Teesta.

Kurigram President of Teesta River Protection Committee and former General Secretary of Ulipur Press Club Jahangir Alam Sardar demanded to construct sluice gates at the mouth of the river to carry the water flow of the river and re-excavate the two banks of the river.

One of the organizers of Save Buri Teesta, Chief Advisor of Teesta River Protection Committee, Kurigram District Branch and former President of Ulipur Press Club, Abu Sayeed Sarkar urges government to taken necessary measures to remove all kinds of obstructions to the normal flow of water by quickly solving the legal complications in the acquisition of various areas of the Buri Teesta River. He requested the intervention of the authorities.

Abdullah Al Mamun, executive engineer of Kurigram Water Development Board, said that the proposal to install a regulator at the mouth of Buri Teesta River will be installed if passed. However, due to legal complications in the acquisition of various areas of the Buri Teesta River, the case is pending in the High Court. Therefore, no other measures can be taken including the restoration of the two banks of the river.