- Initiatives have been taken to dig nine canals, with a total length of 55km, to restore water flow in Dingaputa
- Besides, 7.69km road is being constructed, with a cost of Tk13cr, for transporting crops produced in the haor
- Implementation of these two projects started in March and is scheduled to end in June 2022
Netrokona's largest haor Dingaputa, which was on the verge of extinction due to water crisis, is coming back to life again through the implementation of three time-befitting projects.
Local people are hoping that the life of thousands of farmers and fishermen is going to be changed through the implementation of three mega projects undertaken by the Water Development Board (WDB) to keep the water flow in the haor throughout the year and protect the environment and biodiversity.
The haor spreads over about 20 square kilometers in the southeastern part of Mohanganj upazila of the district. It is the largest one-crop (boro) haor of the district.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the haor has over 8,000 hectares of land. Of this, 6,500 hectares of low land have been brought under cultivation. A target of producing 40,000 tonnes of paddy has been set in the current financial year.
According to farmers, people's representatives and officials, this huge haor was very deep only 20-25 years ago. There were at least 11 canals flowing through the haor along with numerous beels and ponds. Extensive boro lands were cultivated by irrigating these natural reservoirs.
But the canals, beels and ditches filled up gradually due to the accumulation of sand and silt carried by flash floods from the hills. A number of canals and beels have completely disappeared while encroachers have occupied some.
Due to this, an irrigation crisis occurs in Dingaputa haor at the beginning of the dry season every year. For irrigation, farmers now rely on diesel-powered shallow-engines which affect the underground soil severely.
As most of the canals and ditches of the haor have filled up, its capacity of holding flash flood water during the monsoon has also decreased. As a result, even a small flash flood makes the haor full to the brim, triggering floods in surrounding areas and submerging and destroying thousands of hectares of boro crops. During recent years, such incidents of loss of crops have been taking place on a regular basis.
The haor was once known as the reservoir of freshwater fish. Different species of native fish were available in abundance throughout the year. Livelihoods of at least 4,000 fishermen from various villages in the vicinity depended on Dingaputa haor. But their livelihoods became uncertain since the canals and beels of the haor filled up with silt and sand. Now, during the dry season, not a drop of water can be seen in the haor.
As a result, fish is no longer available in the haor except during the monsoon. Availability of fishes is not the same as before. Even a few years ago, an array of migratory birds used to throng the vast haor during the winter. Due to lack of water and food, migratory birds do not come to the haor anymore.
Similarly, various species of aquatic animals including frogs, snakes, snails, oysters, otters and various aquatic plants including hogla, keurali, shapla, padma and reed are in crisis.
It was beyond the imagination of the thousands of people living in surrounding areas that the haor which is on the verge of extinction would revive again. But people of the locality have started dreaming that Dingaputa will get back its life again since implementation of three mega projects, undertaken by Water Development Board, started.
ML Saikat, executive engineer of WDB, said, "Initiatives have been taken to dig nine canals, with a total length of 55km, to restore water flow in Dingaputa. The estimated cost of digging the canals is Tk28.85cr. Besides, 7.69km long road is being constructed, with a cost of Tk13cr, for transporting crops produced in the haor."
"Implementation of these two projects started this month (March) and is scheduled to end in June 2022," he added.
WDB's sub-divisional engineer Amitabh Chowdhury said, "Some portions of those canals had been encroached since those were filled up by silt. We have recovered those portions. Excavation of canals will increase the water holding capacity of the haor which would enable the farmers to irrigate with natural water throughout the year. This will not put so much pressure on the underground water. In addition, increasing the water holding capacity will reduce the risk of floods also."
Md Rashid Mia, a farmer from Kurerpar village beside the haor, said, "I have 1.5 acres of land in Dingaputa Haor. For the last 20-25 years, I have been irrigating the land with underground water using shallow-engine. But day by day, the underground water level is dropping further below. At times, we do not get water even after putting the shallow-engine very deep into the ground. Adding insult to injury, the increasing price of diesel costs a lot to irrigate."
"If the canals are dug properly, the shallow-engine will no longer be needed. From next year, it will be possible to cultivate the land with canal water," hoped the farmer.
Matiur Rahman, a farmer from Maghan village, said, "Earlier, I could fish at Dingaputa haor throughout the year. We did not need to buy fish then, but now fish is not available without the rainy season. If the canals are dug, fish will also be found."
Farmers of the locality appealed to the administration not to lease the excavated canals.
WDB officials said the farmers of Dingaputa haor will benefit from another mega project also, titled 'Charhaizda Dam Construction Project'.
Under the project, undertaken in 2016-17 financial year, a 5.3km stretch of Charhaizda Dam is being reconstructed with CC blocks.
Mentionable, the 72km Charhaizda Dam protects the crops of Dingaputa haor from the flash floods coming down from the upper reaches. This 5.3km long section, at Gaglaju, of the earthen embankment was very risky.
Every year, this portion of the dam used to break down during monsoon. As a result, the boro crop of the entire haor used to get submerged in a day or two once the dam gave way to the flood water. Reconstructing the weak portion of the dam, with a cost of Tk46cr, will be completed by June this year.
These three development projects have given hope to the farmers of Dingaputa haor.
Abu Bakar Siddique, chairman of Maghan-Siadhar union, said, "As a result of these development activities of WDB, Dingaputa haor will come back to life. If the projects are implemented properly, there will be no more crop loss due to floods. Irrigation crisis of farmers will be resolved. Uncultivated lands will come under cultivation. Fishermen will also get their livelihood back."