The villagers of Banka – of Rarli union under Paikgacha in Khulna – used to live comfortably with their families, cultivating paddy twice a year on the adjacent wetland, or beel, named Bankar Char.
But, problems started in 2006 when the River Kopotakkho, flowing by the side of the wetland, filled with sediment.
Since then, waterlogging has become a regular problem in the wetland during the monsoon for lack of an alternative drainage system. Houses in the village remain also inundated for seven to eight months of the year.
Due to waterlogging, the villagers cannot grow any crops on about 2,000 bighas of land of Bakar Char, which is a source of livelihood for most of the villagers.
"We cannot stay at home for seven or eight months because of waterlogging. If the authorities excavate the Kopotakkho, we will not drown anymore," said Julekha Begum, a 50-year-old housewife of the village Banka.
Liaquat Ali Moral, a freedom fighter in his 70s, said, "The Kopotakkho overflows and in the monsoon season, the houses and land of the people of Banka village go under water. Due to a lack of drainage, waterlogging occurs for seven to eight months of the year. We cannot grow crops in the field."
"We cannot reach out to anyone. Despite having land, we are getting poorer day by day," he added.
According to the locals, before the waterlogging started in 2006, paddy grew on Bankar Char twice a year. Among these, Aman paddy was grown from the Bengali months of Shravan to Agrahayan (July to November). And from Poush to Chaitra (December-March) they cultivated Boro paddy. Additionally, shrimp were cultivated in the enclosures. But now the wetland offers them nothing due to waterlogging.
They said about 10 to 12 thousand people are facing an extreme financial crisis due to the crisis for more than a decade. Due to the waterlogging for most of the year, it has also become difficult to bury the dead people of this village. The villagers have lodged complaints with various departments of the administration but no solution has been found.
Jabed Ali, a farmer from Banka village, said, "We have not been able to cultivate the land as it is submerged for more than six months. If we try to cultivate one bigha of land by irrigating the water, we face a loss of more than Tk6,000. Sadly, due to waterlogging, we are often unable to bury the dead."
Local UP member Abdul Hamid Gazi said, "About 15 kilometres of the River Kopotakkho – from Shalikha village of Balia union in Tala upazila of the adjoining Satkhira district to Katakhali of Rarli union of Paikgachha upazila – has been completely filled. As a result, about 12,000 people in the Banka village have to stay in the water for most of the year. No action is being taken even after informing the local administration, including the Water Development Board."
Freedom fighter Abdul Majid Goldar, UP chairman of Radli, said, "The people of this village are living with great difficulty. The matter has also been brought to the notice of the local Upazila Chairman, UNO, Water Development Board officials, current and former MPs."
He said the authorities took initiative to dig a canal but it was not implemented due to a lack of funds.
"To alleviate the waterlogging, the Water Development Board took the initiative to dig a canal in the village. But it did not happen because it would cost Tk80 lakh. However, I do not know whether the River Kopotakkho will be excavated," he said.
Officials from the Water Development Board said a project has been approved to solve the problem of the villagers of Banka.
Jessore Water Development Board Executive Engineer Tauhidul Islam said, "An area of 30 kilometres of Kopotakkho River would be excavated from Shalikha village of Tala upazila of Satkhira district to Amadi of Koyra upazila through Paikgachha upazila of Khulna district. For this, a project worth around Tk100 crore has been approved."
"However, the tender has not been called yet. After inviting tenders, the excavation work of the River Kopotakkho will start at the beginning of next year. Then there will be no problem of waterlogging," he added.
Meanwhile, the authorities said they have sent a letter to the higher authorities for a project to excavate the Kopotakkho River.
Paikgachha Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) ABM Khalid Hossain Siddiqui said, "At the moment, we do not have any information about the dredging of the River Kopotakkho. However, a letter has been sent to the concerned higher authorities in this regard. I hope to get some good news about the dredging of the Kopotakkho River in a short time."
In this regard, local MP Akhtaruzzaman Babu said, "I sent a DO letter to the concerned ministry regarding the excavation of the Kopotakkho River. Tenders have already been issued for excavation of some parts of the river. Once the River Kopotakkho is excavated, the waterlogging problem will cease."