The Baral River

Dr. Mohd. Abdul Matin
Monday, March 11, 2013

The Baral River originates from the big river Padma (the local name of the Ganges that entered into Bangladesh from India) and flows over 220 km area of the northern area of Bangladesh it has ended in another major river of the country named the Jamuna (local name of the another transboundary river Brahmaputra). The Baral was originally a very strong river that nourished about one thousand square kilometers with its profuse amount of water to the soil & water bodies of its basin through its multiple branches, canals, sub-canals network in the vast area thus ensuring water supply, agriculture, fishes and other aquatic biodiversity since long time in the history. Its basin area is basically a very big marshland of Bangladesh known as The Chalan Beel.

The term Chalan Beel means -"moving marshland" came from the fact that unlike other wetlands of the country or the world, this big wetland's water is seen to be moving in streams all the time because there are more than 30 small to large other submerged rivers, hundreds of canals connecting few thousands of small marshlands contained inside. That means few thousands of small marshlands contained inside the big marshland named as Chalan Beel are fully connected by rivers and canals. The Baral is the major source of water supply for the whole area. Again, after filling up of the whole area, the excessive water of all the rivers, canals and marshlands are getting carried out to the river Brahmaputra by the Baral - thus the Baral is the major source of water for the whole region and the maintainer of an equilibrium between the Padma, Chalan Beel and the Brahmaputra and also the life line for the nature and people of the area.

But unfortunately the Baral is almost a dead river now due to human interference on it since the mid eighties. In the name of flood control and enhancement of food security, the than government of Bangladesh established one regulator at the origin of the Baral. Subsequently there were 4 more regulators at different sites of the river followed by several earthen cross dams over the river thus converting it into multiple long ponds for doing fishery projects by the influential and politically connected and empowered fake fishermen. The flow has become reduced now causing further silts on and raising of the rivers bed, illegal encroachment; erection of structures inside the river. So the Baral is the worst example of combined atrocities by the government, corrupted local administration as well as political workers in Bangladesh. But the basin people, on the contrary, lost their dearest river, its water, entertainment of boating, cheapest riverine transportation & trading, natural water supply for agriculture, fishes and other aquatic resources etc.

People of the Baral basin vehemently want their dearest river Baral be back to its original scenario. BAPA and its allied organizations are conducting struggles along with the people of the area with the demands for immediate removal of all the diversionary projects erected, ensuring the river to flow freely, banning further infrastructures in future, re-excavating the river and its silted branches; canals, stopping pollution by industries, banning industries in side the Chalan Beel area.

It is clear that only way to save the Baral river is possible through the implementation of the philosophy of abandoning the Cordon cum Commercial Approaches and adopting Ecological Approaches to the rivers. For last long four years, BAPA and its allied organizations working in the area organised hundreds of events with a view to mobilizing the people of the area, administration, political persons, polluters, occupants etc through a two conferences, public meetings, community meetings, human chains, processions on the streets, placing memorandums to the local government, Ministries, River Task Force even the honorable Prime Minister's Office. Few Members of the Parliament raised this issue in the National Parliament and demanded immediate release of the river from the present captivity situation.The PM's office issued a letter to the Ministry of Water Resources long back to make the rover Baral free but the perpetrators are still winning over the situation and nothing could be done for this ill fated river. So BAPA, its allies have decided to go for continuing pressing the demands again and again, so that people can be the winners over the illegal occupants, polluters, infrastructures, business makers etc and make this river the focal point on the IAD for Rivers in 2013!

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