Re-excavation of extinct rivers, canals, beels and ponds is reviving the lost ecosystems, improving the environment and creating attractive natural beauty in the country, especially in northern districts of the country.
Aadequately stored rainwater in these re-excavated reservoirs is contributing to reloading groundwater tables and conserving surface water and its optimal utilization in agriculture and household activities.
All these have become possible following implementation of the government’s five-year term (2019-2024) ‘Expansion of irrigation in greater Rangpur district through best uses of surface water and conservation of rainwater project (EIRP)’.
Rural people are reaping multidimensional benefits from the project through promoting agriculture, pisciculture, tree plantation, farming vegetables, banana and grass to feed cattle heads and rearing ducks to improve livelihoods.
The whole watery areas of re-excavated beels and ponds are now full of the chirping of various guest birds and huge varieties of lost rare species of trees on the banks creating sight beholding scenes.
Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) under the Ministry of Agriculture is implementing the project spending Taka 250.56 crore in 35 upazilas of Rangpur, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat and Gaibandha districts in greater Rangpur.
Talking to BSS, Project Director of the EIRP and Superintending Engineer of BMDA for Rangpur Circle Engineer Habibur Rahman Khan said thousands of people have started enjoying enormous benefits from implementation of the project.
The project is being implemented to promote agriculture making best uses of conserved surface water, forestation and improve environment and biodiversity and revive sanctuaries for local and migratory birds.
“Under the project, re-excavation of extinct rivers, canals, beels and ponds, installation of low lift pumps (LLPs), solar power-run dug-wells and construction of foot-over bridges and cross dams and tree plantation are being implemented,” said Engineer Khan.
Re-excavation of these water bodies increases water holding capacity, facilitates drainage of rain and floodwater and waterlogged lands become suitable for agriculture and stored water is being used for agricultural, household and other activities.
Farmers are providing supplementary irrigation to croplands using conserved surface water in re-excavated water bodies reducing dependence on groundwater and producing more crops at lower cost to earn extra profits.
The project has a target of re-excavating 230-km of canals, 11 beels, 118 ponds, installation of 30 solar power-run LLPs, 100 electricity-run LLPs, 50 solar power-run dug-wells and plantation of 2.30 lakh saplings of wood, fruit and medicinal plants.
Implementation of the project will ensure irrigation to 10,250 hectares of land using stored surface water and free 350 hectares of land from water-logging enabling farmers to produce an additional 83,400 tonnes of crops worth Taka 166.80 crore annually.
The project has also created facilities for using renewable solar energy in irrigating croplands, increasing cultivation of less water consuming crops utilising water from dug-wells and enhancing forest resources.
So far, re-excavation of 40-km of canals, two beels and 15 ponds, installation of 14 solar power-run LLPs, 18 electricity-run LLPs, 14 solar power-run dug-wells and plantation of 80,000 saplings has been completed in five upazilas of the project area.
Talking to BSS, local villagers and public representatives expressed happiness saying that they are witnessing revival of the lost ecosystems in the extinct water bodies with fresh environment and biodiversity again after three to four decades.
Re-excavation of the water bodies has created opportunities for people to use surface water for irrigation, household activities, forestation and rearing ducks, farming fish, banana, vegetables and Napier grass on the banks.
Farmer Mashiur Rahman of village Sangkarpur in Badarganj upazila of Rangpur said re-excavation of a 12-km portion of the extinct river Mora Teesta has revived water flow in the river improving drainage of rain and floodwater to free vast areas from water logging.
“The re-excavated river carried out rainwater swiftly to the river Jamuneswari last year freeing my 2.62 hectares of land from water-logging and enabling me in cultivating Aman rice on the land for the first time in three decades,” he said.
Housewives Momina Begum of village Kamarpara and Hosna Begum of village Jharpara in Kalupara union said they are improving livelihoods by rearing ducks and farming banana and vegetables following re-excavation of the river Mora Teesta.
Farmer Golam Mortuza of village Kazipara in the same upazila said he never thought that his 1.50 hectares of land might become free from water-logging and cultivable again.
“Re-excavation of a 10-kilometre portion of the extinct river Ghirnoi has freed my land from water-logging,” he said, adding that he is cultivating three crops on the land now annually like many other farmers after three decades.
Md. Hamim and Md. Tuhin of nearby Kuthipara village said they are fishing in the re-excavated river Ghirnoi where the nature has become green following plantation of tree saplings on the banks.
Meanwhile, a sight beholding landscape has been created following re-excavation of the 11.59-acre Bharardaho beel alongside plantation of 103 species of rare wood, fruit, medicinal and flower plants on its 100-feet wide bank in Badarganj upazila of Rangpur.
“The whole beel area is covered with the chirping of thousands of guest birds and free movement of their wings is attracting everyone,” said Hafizur Rahman of nearby village Dangapara.
The beel with abundantly growing flora and fauna has become a sanctuary for birds in revived ecosystems and people are rushing there to enjoy the beauty of green nature and sprouting flowers.
Chairman of Berubari union in Nageshwari upazila of Kurigram district Abdul Motaleb said BMDA has so far re-excavated 8-km portion of the 12-km long Boalerdara canal benefitting 40,000 people of 25 villages.
“Re-excavation of the canal alongside plantation of saplings on the canal’s banks has improved the environment. Local people are using conserved water for irrigation in crop fields, rearing ducks, farming fish and household activities,” he said.
Farmer Abdul Halim of nearby village Char Berubari said re-excavation of the canal has freed his six bighas of land from water-logging paving an opportunity to cultivate three crops there annually after four decades.
Re-excavation of 8-km portion of the 10-km long Chatra canal has turned 900 hectares of land cultivable again in the area, said farmer Kaikobad Mandal of village Baro Badnapara in Chatra union of Pirganj upazila in Rangpur.
“Last year, I cultivated Aman rice on my five bighas of land which has become free from water logging for the first time in 30 years,” he said, adding that re-excavation of the canal has benefited 19,000 people of 12 villages.
Farmer Badsha Miah of village Bhagbanpur in Mithapukur upazila of Rangpur said re-excavation of 8-km portion of the 16-km long Shalmara canal has freed his three acres of land from water-logging enabling him to cultivate three crops now annually.
Homeless housewife Nur Salma of village Betgara in Bhangni union of the same upazila said re-excavation of the 10.94-acre Shosthichhara beel alongside plantation of saplings on the bank has changed the ecosystems benefiting hundreds of local people.
Thanking the government for re-excavating the beel, Salma said “Local people are using stored water in the beel for irrigation and household purposes, farming Napier grass and vegetables on the banks, rearing ducks and taking bathe in the water.”