Hundreds of trees of an afforestation project in Shibsha char are in Paikgachha upazila have been dying due to stagnant rainwater caused by the construction of a town protection embankment in an unplanned way three months ago.
On April 23, 2022, MP of Khulna-6 constituency Aktaruzzaman Babu inaugurated the embankment which was built to prevent saltwater from entering the low-lying areas of Shibsa under Paikgachha upazila of the district.
Within just three months, the embankment has become ineffective, causing water to stagnate inside the dam, and killing trees of the area.
As a result, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Paikgachha has ordered the local municipality to remove the dam within a week.
Paikgachha municipality, which stands beside the Shibsa river, was established in 1997. No dam was built in the area in the last 25 years except the one built in April. During full moon and new moon, water from the river used to swell and enter the locality, inundating households, shops and roads.
Besides, a 20-kilometre area stretching from Khulna Sadar to the Hariya river was being filled up for the last several years by encroachers. To stop this practice, the upazila administration launched an afforestation campaign through which trees were planted on these occupied lands.
While the campaign was successful in preventing land filling by local influential people, it also increased the natural beauty of the area.
Although water from the Shibsa river can’t enter the dam area, rain water has inundated the entire place, and stagnant water has caused the death of valuable trees planted during the afforestation campaign .
Premananda Ray, a forest official from Paikgachha upazila, said that the upazila administration has planted trees that are usually found in the Sunderbans in the embankment area.
“The lives of these trees are dependent on high tide and low tide. If river water can’t enter the embankment, these trees will die due to waterlogging. Already many trees have started dying. This is why the local authorities should remove the dam immediately,” said Premananda.
Mostofa Kamal Jahangir, President of Paikgachha Upazila Citizens’ Committee, said that the trees would’ve lived if the dam was built alongside the locality instead of in the middle of the river.
Prasanta Kumar Mondal, president of Paikgachha Upazila Citizens’ Right Implementation Committee, said that building the dam was an effort to grab the river.
“Due to the dam, the Shibsa river is losing its depth. Besides, the river is also shrinking, causing its water to overflow and inundate the municipality area. The relevant stakeholders must take prompt steps to change the scenario,” Prasanta said.
Anwar Iqbal Montu, Chairman of Paikgachha upazila, denied his involvement in building the dam in the middle of the river.
Paikgachha Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mamataj Begum said that dams can’t be built grabbing rivers.
“Dams have to be built alongside the town where people live. Dams have to be built in a way so that they don’t harm the rivers and trees,” said Mamataj.
The UNO reaffirmed the fact that she has given the municipality a timeframe of seven days to remove the dam, saying that otherwise the upazila administration will remove it through conducting mobile court activities.