Farmers in the Tahirpur haor area of Sunamganj fear they may be deprived of their Boro harvest this year, with the possibility of further flash floods in the days ahead on the back of heavy rainfall in the northern and eastern part of India.
Boro paddy of Tahirpur upazila has just started ripening. Normally, farmers of the haor areas would go for harvest within 7-10 days. But another flash flood between now and then could damage the crop entirely.
According to the forecast of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, water level at some points of Surma, Kushiara, and Jadukata rivers may cross the danger level due to incessant downpours in the hilly areas of India including Assam and Meghalaya from April 10 to 17.
In the last week, around 7000 hectares of Boro lands of Tanguar haor, Eraliakona, and Gunnakuri haor under Tahirpur upazila became inundated due to an onrush of water downstream breaking past the protection embankment. Local farmers of these areas are now guarding the remaining embankments in phases as these are very weak and ill-constructed.
The Water Development Board has repaired the 53-kilometre long submersible crop protection embankment and 10 closures through 68 Project Implementation Committees (PICs). The cost to implement the project was Tk 12 crore 83 lakh. However, the embankment and the closures are not perfectly repaired and repair work remains incomplete. The local administration along with the farmers are working to repair the cracks on the embankment.
On the other hand, the Moinakhali embankment of the upazila remains at risk of collapse as locals have caught fish from Mahalia Haor by removing water from Moinakhali Beel during the winter.
Locals alleged that PIC members along with the officials of the Water Development Board have swindled the money from the embankment repairing project. Political and influential persons in Tahirpur upazila have used the names of the poor farmers as PICs and looted the public money keeping thousands of farmers in danger.
Shahida Akter, president of a PIC, said, "Work of protection embankment repairing has been delayed as we didn't get project money in time. We will not take responsibility for the cracks in the embankment. Authorities concerned are responsible for this."
Protesting the corruption in the embankment protection project, 'Haor Bachao Andolan', a platform of civil society and conscious citizens, formed a human chain in the upazila demanding punishment of the guilty members of the PICs.
Md. Asaduzzaman, the deputy assistant engineer of the Water Development Board and member secretary of Haor Bachao Andolan's implementation and monitoring committee, said, "We are trying to save the embankments of Eraliakona, Gunnakuri, Nandia, Lamargul, Tenergul, Rangamatia, Faliar Beel, and Sonnyasi Haor under the upazila as farmers of these areas fear another flash flood."
Tahirpur upazila agriculture officer Md. Hasan Ud Dowla said farmers of the upazila have cultivated 17,495 hectares of Boro lands on 23 haors. Farmers will get rice from these Boro paddies worth Tk 250 crore.
"Around 100 hectares Boro lands of three haors are underwater. We are aware of the embankments and contacting the concerned people," he added.
Mushahin Mia, a farmer of Shanir Haor said, "We have not cut the paddy yet. But the water level in the haor is increasing daily. We are passing a critical time fearing cracks developing in the embankment."
He also demanded exemplary punishment of the PICs and officials of the Water Development Board for their alleged involvement in corruption.
Tahirpur upazila implementation and monitoring committee president and UNO Md. Raihan said none involved with the corruption would be spared.
"We are trying to sustain the embankments and hope farmers of the upazila will not be more affected."
Sindhu Chowdhury Babul, upazila chairman, Tahirpur, said, people from all walks of life are working to protect the embankments.
He also urged the people including farmers to come forward to save the Boro crops.
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