Toriqul Isalm: Jalangi and Chandana Rivers

Toriqul Isalm
Friday, March 1, 2013

Today I will tell a story of how a bread earner (trans-boundary) river has started to die because of the inane and malicious activities of its own populace.

Jalangi and Chandana are two daughters of the Ganges River which originate from the Maldaho in India's West Bengal. At the dawn of their birth they were committed to their mother nature to fulfill their journey and meld with Ocean. The siblings were decorated by green nature even they were much intimated. In the course of time, to keep their commitments, the siblings had to go their own way - that’s why they separate their paths to fulfill their own journeys. Among these siblings, Jalangi River, in her mission to meet with Ocean, enters into Bangladesh at the brink of the Kustia District, travels through the Sholmari police station of the Meherpur District and gradually surges her toward the Southern part of the country. Along the way he crosses the Jessore and Khulna Districts respectively and ultimately in her generous journey, on the path of holy embrace with Bay of Bengal she joins with the Gorai River and finally they both change their identity to Poshur River and fall in with the Bay of Bengal. When Jalangi enters into Bangladesh, the local people call her the Voirob River and in this name she crosses 248 kilometers and enters the historical part of Bangladesh.

In history it is mentioned that in 1660 the British geographer, Funden Broke made an initial sketch of this region with Jalangi and Chandana drawn in that draft. (The district Gazetteer: Kustia). Additionally Ranel’s Maps in 1771 and Captain’s Maps it is mentioned that the water of the Ganges-Bramhaputra-Jamuna river system flowed through the Voirob and Kopotakkho River (Bhoirov Rokkha Andolon).

In this sacred journey Jalangi touches with her beauty the six districts named Kustia, Meherpur, Cuadanga, Jhinaidoho, Jessose and Khulna and enriches the civilization of the countryside. On the path of development, people started their crowd her banks and set up trade markets and ports to export and import their commodities within and between the countries. In the course of time and because of the river’s impediment most of the markets were abolished but some of them, like BaroBazar, Bosundia, Rupdia and Dowlotpur markets are still renowned in the country. At that time the Voirob River was one of the biggest rivers of Bangladesh even she was supporting the economic growth of these areas. This river carries water as clear as water kept in beaker so,

because of this fresh outlook and the caring legacy of holy Ganges River she attracts the Hindu worshipers and gradually became a holy river in this region. (Dr. Nihar Ranjan Roy: Bangladesher  Nod-nodi). It is said that when Voirob River was very young and her steam was like a warrior youth, the fishes and other water-born vegetables like lily-stick and fruits of water lily were incredibility tasty and delicious.

The present situation of this dying river was not created over night. Among the impacts, some are extremely and intentionally human induced, and some are natural disruptions. As a man made wickedness, in 1861 the British government first took a bad hand to this river when they decided to make a Kustia-Shelaidoho railroad, eventually the implementation of this project impacted various rivers in this area. Voirob was one of the worst victims among them. Later on, the independent government of Pakistan and finally the Bangladeshi government took various initiatives to conquer this navigator of the large southern part of the country. Day by day it was more distrupted, slowed down and impeded. Because of these interventions, people have easy access to the river's banks and gradually they execute their bad intentions over it. In a case study, it was reported that within 41 kilometers of Jessore area three dams were built in 1970, 1990, and 2000.

As a result of alterations to the river, thousands of people directly involved in river related professions in the Jessore area have been victimized. In this district she crosses more than 41 km, and spans 502 hectares of fishing land. According to the District Fish Department, it is mentioned that approximately 20 years ago from 502 hectors fishing lands they usually would harvest 400-500 kilograms fish per hectare totalling over 150 metric tons - but today it is near zero. In this area, 65% of the people affected have replaced their profession. Instead of fishing, they live hand to mouth depending on small retail shops. Not only this, but the biodiversity of this region is also under threat.

If truth be told, I was born at the near bank of this beauty queen river on the Basundia Market side. I spent my reckless youth in the river's steam, even practicing my swimming early in the morning. My body got stronger swimming with her. I learned from this river how to survive in life. I learned how to run my life to reach goals. In this way my childhood and youth were spent on the banks of this river. Now I am 25 years old. At the moment I am living in capital city around 400 kilometers away from her but still I feel the soft touches of my mother river, still I smell her remains. The irony is that, in front of my eyes, she is being bogged down and gradually is going to die. Greedy hands are seizing her banks step by step though I am crying. That is why people now say that her flow was in youth and her taste was fabulous once upon a time.

Although, a little candle has been lit. People have started to understand how important this river is for the region! As a consequence of matters of consciousness, different local groups, NGOs, civil societies have raised their voices against the grabbers and launched popular movements around these issues - Voirob Rokkha Andolon is one of the powerful ones. They all believe that one day we will succeed in retrieving the river. It is not only fostering a dream, but truly possible that these rivers could be reborn.

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