- Tulsiganga needs to be revived for the protection of biodiversity in the region
- The river is now filled with silt accumulated for years
- In most places, people plant paddy on the dried-up riverbed
- 18km portion of the river is in Naogaon, 10km of which has recently been excavated
- If excavated properly, local fishermen would get back their livelihoods
The Tulsiganga, once a raging river and source of livelihood for hundreds of people living on its banks and far away, has now turned into a dead canal due to the utter negligence of authorities.
Once upon a time, Choto Jamuna and Tulsiganga, the two rivers flowing through the Naogaon town, were a major means of transportation for the people of the locality.
Traders from distant places used to come to Naogaon by sailboats through the Tulsiganga which was also the source of livelihood for numerous fishermen living on its banks. Especially during the jute season, jute traders used to throng the bazaars of Naogaon.
But those good old days are no more. Although the Choto Jamuna still somehow survives while struggling for life, the Tulsiganga has now turned into a mere memory for the locals.
Local people said the Tulsiganga needs to be revived for the sake of protecting the biodiversity and environment of the region. To restore the normal flow of the river, they demanded the construction of a regulator while removing the embankment built on the river.
It is known that two adjacent beels at Kalai upazila of Joypurhat are the sources of two rivers, Harabati and Tulsiganga. Flowing from Kalai, these two rivers meet at Battali in Joypurhat and enter into Naogaon district bearing the name Tulsiganga. After entering Naogaon, it meets the Choto Jamuna and Atrai rivers at Raninagar upazila in the district. This river benefits the people of about 40 villages of Chandipur, Shikarpur, Boalia and Tilokpur unions of Sadar Upazila and Naogaon municipality.
The Tulsiganga started dying in the 1960s after an embankment was built at Chhitkitla village in Tilokpur union of Sadar upazila blocking the course of the river.
At present, although the river gets some water during the monsoon, cultivation on the dried-up riverbed and encroachment continue unabated throughout the rest of the year.
The river is filled with silt now. Almost all through the year, somewhere piles of water hyacinths and somewhere knee-deep water can be seen on the river that has already shrunk to the size of a small canal due to encroachment. In most places, the river is dry and people plant paddy on the riverbed. The river floods the nearby croplands and villages during the monsoon as the soil from both riverbanks has been cut away by illegal soil traders.
Around 18km stretch of the river is in Naogaon. Recently, 10km of the river has been excavated from Chakrampur in Naogaon town to Chakkutub up to the confluence at Raninagar.
Tenders have been floated for excavation of 6km out of the remaining 8km length of the river in the district. In case of a flood this year, it would be excavated next year.
Hafizul Rahman, an elderly person from Ikarkuri village in Boalia union, and Belal Hossain, another elderly person from Adam Durgapur village of Tilokpur union, said once traders from Pabna and Joypurhat districts used to come to the district town by sailboats about 50-60 years ago. After the embankment was constructed at the confluence, the river became filled with accumulated silt year after year. Now it has turned into a dead river.
Liton Hossain, a farmer from Ikarkuri village told The Business Standard, "The farmers of the region used to cultivate their lands using the water of this river. If the embankment at the mouth of the river is removed and a sluice gate is built there, the flow of water will become normal again."
They demanded immediate dredging of the river.
Shariful Islam Khan, former principal of Naogaon Government College, said that the river needs to be revived to save the biodiversity and environment of the region.
He argued that to ensure the natural flow of the river, it would be better to allow the water to flow directly, instead of building a sluice gate or regulator removing the existing dam.
Rafiqul Islam, general secretary of the Naogaon unit of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, said due to the negligence of authorities concerned and encroachment by influential people, the Tulsiganga has become dead. Unscrupulous traders are taking away the soil from the river bank. "I had to face harassment from the vested group of traders as I opposed their misdeeds. Regular surveillance of the authorities concerned is required to prevent encroachment," he said.
Boalia Union Parishad Chairman Aflatun Nessa said that at one time fishermen used to make a living by fishing in the river. Besides, the surrounding croplands were irrigated with the water of Tulsiganga.
"With time, the river is now dead. If the river is excavated properly, local fishermen would get back their livelihoods again," she added.
Naogaon Water Development Board Executive Engineer Md Arifuzzaman Khan told TBS, "Tulsiganga has already been identified as a dead river. The length of the dead part of the river in Naogaon is 18km. Of this, 10km was excavated in 2020. Tenders have been invited for excavation of 6km more. Excavation of Tulsiganga will facilitate irrigation as well as navigation. In addition, due to the increase in fish production, those who depend on it will be able to make a living."
He said the Tulsiganga has been dead for many years and much of its area got encroached. Hopefully, the excavation of the river will help evict the encroachers.
"However, it will not be possible to install a sluice gate through the excavation project at the river mouth as it was closed. The construction of a sluice gate has been proposed in another area. In that case, if the sluice gate is constructed, the Tulsiganga will be connected to the Choto Jamuna again," he added.