The tiny shanti of Bokul is situated beside the Teesta River at Dolagonna village under Gangachara upazila of Rangpur district. This is the tenth time Bokul has shifted his cottage. Bokul has a special identity among the people of the locality. He is the son Satish Maroar, once the most well off farmer of the village Shankardaha under Laxmitari union of Gangachara upazila. For years, Bokul himself has watched in distress and the devastation of his houses and the plight of the family. Just within a couple of years, his 200 bighas of fertile, cultivable land have been devoured by the river Teesta. Seven bighas of betel-nut orchard beside the house have been devoured by turbulent current in just a few minutes. Now, he is no more than a pauper and earns his livelihood by working as a day labourer. Like Bokul, thousands of solvent family members once living in villages beside the river Teesta, are spending inhuman lives for years by losing their assets and homestead properties.
Teesta is now a symbol of want and devastation. This several kilometre wide, peaceful river turns devastating during the rainy season. In a matter of seconds, the river devours homesteads, cultivable land and the fruit-groves. Its devastating nature has now turned the wheels of fortune of some one million people of adjacent five districts into the opposite direction. Once rich and fertile regions of Nilphamari, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha and Rangpur districts are now regularly facing the ‘Monga’ or food crisis. All the past businessmen, well-off farmers, landlords and middle-class families have now just turned paupers. By losing all their assets and homesteads, thousands of landless families have raised their shanties on both sides of the rivers. Everything they left over inside the river-their houses, cultivable land, ponds and fruit orchards. By losing everything inside the river Teesta, these well-off people have now turned hungry, day labourers, traversing one district to another in search of work to manage a handful of morsels.
Local people informed thousands of rich and middle class people of Gangachara and Kaunia of Rangpur and Pirgachha upazila are now simply paupers. Thousands of people have now turned landless paupers due to devastating erosion of the river Teesta. Those people are now living by building shanties on the embankment or on government land. Being deprived of all civic facilities, those people are now working as day labourers. Specially, during every Bangla month of Ashin and Kartik, there is want of work and a severe ‘ Monga’ ( Crisis of food and work) starts. As a result, those hungry people visit one district to another in search of work. The crisis seems to be deepening day by day.
After visiting various erosion affected areas under Gangachara upazila, a devastating, dried up charland was seen to form miles after miles on the river even after the starting of the Winter season. There is no navigability and current of water of the river. Local farmers were now cultivating Potato, Tobacco, Garlic, Onion and other crops on the charland of the river. But, during the Monsoon, the river is out with its ferocious devastating nature devouring villages, cultivable land and human habitations miles after miles. One side of the river is devoured while the other side remains intact. For such a peculiar nature, people term the river as ‘ Pagla Teesta’.
The Water Development Board with its huge fund, made embankments and dropped innumerous sand filled sacks to check erosion every year during the monsoon. But, there is no effective step and the river erosion could not be checked.
The Gangachara upazila is termed as the most adversely affected upazila of the district. Seven out of its nine unions are affected by the erosion of the river. Thousands of acres of land of Kolkond, Gangachara, Laxmitari, Gajaghanta, Mornea and Alambidir unions of the upazila are now devoured by the erosion of the river. Moreover, the livelihood of thousands of families under Balapara, Madhupur of Kaunia upazila and Chaola and Tambulpur unions of Pirgacha upazila are uncertain because of the devastating effect of the river Teesta.
Abdur Rashid was a solvent farmer of the village Kalagachi under Gangachara upazila. He was the owner of 20 acres of land and never thought of any want and need. But, now losing everything into the river, Abdur Rashid with his six-member family is leading an inhuman life by making a shanti on the embankment at Mohipur area. He said, if the erosion of the river can be checked, thousands more families could be saved from total devastation.
Toyeb Ali, once a well-off farmer of Binbina village under Kolkand union now earns his livelihood by pulling rickshaw. By losing everything in the river, he has taken shelter on other’s land with his family members. He said, the devastating Teesta has made thousands of rich and mid-income group family members’ just paupers.
It is learnt, by building Gajaldoba Barrage, India is diverting the natural flow of the river Teesta (Brahmaputra) as a result, the Teesta is dying during the lean season and during the Monsoon, excessive water is being flushed out through the barrage which is devouring devastatingly the miles after miles of lands, crop-fields, villages and establishments along the river Teesta in Bangladeshi side.
Now, during the lean season, miles after miles of areas on the river Teesta are filled with sand. No large fishes and other aquatic animals like Gharial or Dolphin are seen to swim and play in the water of the river any more. Now, with no water on the river, Teesta is gradually turning fishless. As a result, people living along the river are facing acute shortages of fishes.To save the Teesta River its natural flow of water must be resumed and it is the high time to take steps in this connection.