As the authorities concerned could not take proper initiatives to stop river pollution in Sylhet region, the rivers which flow through Sylhet and its adjacent districts are being polluted and grabbed in various ways.
Talking to this correspondent, some environmentalists, river activists and water experts said that over 50 rivers are endangered due to massive siltation, pollution, grabbing and withdrawal of water from upper reaches of some of the rivers.
Water level in the rivers, including Surma, Kushiyara, Sari, Piain, Khowai, Dholai, Monu and Kalni, and their tributaries declined significantly in recent years. Hundreds of shoals have emerged in parts of the rivers.
Many of the rivers dry up and turn into canals in the dry season. Water vehicle movements and agriculture are hampered seriously. Many chars are developed which turned into a sandy desert.
Abdul Hye Al-Hadi, president of Sari Nodi Bachao Andolon (Movement for Saving Sari River) and Chief Executive of Save the Heritage and Environment, said that some of the rivers have already virtually turned into narrow streams. Most of the rivers and their tributaries see gradual decrease in their flow due to massive siltation in absence of planned dredging, causing a serious threat to the environment in Greater Sylhet. He, however, said that many influential are also responsible for polluting and grabbing the rivers.
The Surma, the longest river in Bangladesh, and the Kushiyara are the major rivers of Sylhet region. Barak River in India bifurcates into two flows and enters Bangladesh as Surma and Kushiyara at Amolshid point of Jakiganj upazila in Sylhet. The Surma then flows through several areas including, Kanaighat, Golapganj, Sylhet city and Sunamganj, before connecting with the Meghna.
The Surma is being silted up at its source and mouth and some other parts, said BWDB sources.
Abdul Karim Kim of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) said that the river’s flow is constricted during dry weather, with six to seven months of no flowing water. This also restricts the movement of cargo vessels. Initiative must be taken to save the major river of Sylhet, he said.
Mahbubur Rashid, a journalist lives at Kanaighat upazila in Sylhet, said that during the monsoon months, the Surma is full to the brim. However, winter sees it dry up and form shoals. This restricts the movement of boats. He mentioned that the loss of navigability of the river means that Kanaighat’s main river port had to be relocated, but that some dredging would alleviate the problem.
Meanwhile, a dam at Kakunkhai area of Gowainghat upazila in Sylhet is killing Baulikhal river and the Sari river. Water flow to the Baulikhal, which is a branch of the Sari river, has been completely stopped at the confluence by the 400-feet long dam that now serves as a road.
The Baulikhal, also known as the Hidairkhal, merged with the Kapna river 13-km downstream. The river was a water source for 18 smaller rivers and canals and 37 haors and beels. People of about 40 villages at Gowainhat depend on these waterbodies, said the local people and environmentalists.
Alirgaon Union Parishad constructed the dam in 2019. Residents of Khola, Budhigaon and Titkulli villages raised Tk 35 lakh for it as they needed better communication across the Baulikhal. The rest of the money was funded by the union parishad, upazila chairman and local MP, said the Union Parishad sources.
Monjur Ahmed, resident of Alirgaon union and former president of Gawainghat Press Club, said that the Hidairkhal dam brought negative impacts on Baulikhal and Sari rivers and waterbodies at the area. The dam must be demolished, he demanded.
Abdul Karim Kim said laws and regulations regarding dam construction were not followed while constructing the dam on Baulikhal river. Abdul Hye Al-Hadi said that nearly 50,000 people at the upazila are being deprived of a freshwater source due to the dam.