THE police attack on the people demanding an early solution to the Bhabadaha water stagnation problem in Jessore on Wednesday is deplorable. When people under the banner of Bhabadaha Pani Nishkashan Sangram Committee reached Swadhinata Chattar at Nawapara after a sit-in on the Jessore-Khulna Highway, the police charged, as New Age reported on Thursday, at them with truncheons ‘without any provocation’ leaving at least 50 wounded. The perennial water stagnation problem, essentially resulting from the flawed water management mechanism pursued by the then government in the 1960s at Bhabadaha and in surrounding areas to increase agricultural production, has hogged the headlines for long. Under the 1960s mechanism, a large sluice gate was built at Bhabadaha to control water flow there. Just after a decade and a half, however, drains at the sluice gate area came to be silted up, rising higher than the water body bed, leaving a vast area of Abhaynagar, Manirampur and Keshabpur upazilas and some parts of the district headquarters permanently inundated. As estimated, about one million people are now affected by the problem whose sufferings take a serious turn during heavy shower and flooding. The outbreak of water-borne diseases is almost a regular phenomenon in the area while people face serious difficulties even in doing regular household chores and attending offices and educational institutions.
Against the backdrop, meanwhile, the government in 2002 adopted a mechanism called tidal river management, originally developed by people dependent on Beel Dakatia in Khulna in 1980s to raise the bed of the water body by allowing siltation from ebb and flow action of the tidal river, on a water body there which slightly eased the problem. But the mechanism stopped working in 2005. The government then applied the mechanism to another water body. But it too became ineffective in 2012–13 and, worse still, compounding the problem further. The Water Development Board also made attempt to apply the mechanism to another water body the next year only to backtrack in the face of resistance from local people dependent on the water body called Beel Kapalia for fish farming. It is important to note that without putting in further efforts to introduce the mechanism, which is cheaper than any other methods adopted earlier in the name of resolving the Bhabadaha water stagnation, the Water Development Board now just sits on the problem for mysterious reasons. The protesters, whose six-point demand includes an immediate restart of the tidal river management project at Beel Kapalia, took to the streets in such a situation.
According to experts, the government could easily introduce the tidal river management mechanism to address the Bhabadaha water stagnation problem by reassuring the people, who opposed this, of proper compensation and rehabilitation. Instead of this, however, the government regrettably appears to opt for suppressing the voice of the affected people, which will only compound the problem. The government is well advised to heed the protesters without any delay.
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