There around 10,000 ponds, 200 canels and ten other big sized waterholes in the barind areas comprising Rajshahi, Chsapainawabganj and Naogaon districts, the study finds. COURTESY
Prospects of boosting surface water irrigation is very bright in Rajshahi Barind area as it has scores of natural water bodies which remain in uncared and derelict condition at present, experts said.
Referring to various research findings Prof Chowdhury Sarwar Jahan said there are around 10,000 ponds, 200 canals and ten other big sized waterholes in the barind areas comprising Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj and Naogaon districts.
“We have enormous scopes of enriching the surface water resources through proper management of the water bodies,” he said, adding boosting surface water irrigation has become the demand of time.
Prof Chowdhury who teaches at the Department of Geology and Mining in Rajshahi University has been conducting research on both surface and groundwater resources in the drought-prone Barind area for a long time.
He cited the instance of Beelbhatia, a vast water body and wetland of around 6,388 acres, at Bholahat upazila in Chapainawabganj. Tens of thousands hectares of farmlands can be irrigated round the year through using conserved water of the beel if it was re-excavated.
There is another four to five kilometer long water body at Rohanpur in Gomastapur upazila of the same district. If it was re-excavated, around 10,000 hectares of land of 25,000 farmers can be brought under surface water irrigation.
Apart from this, the two-kilometer long Chowdala-Boalia canal remained in derelict condition for long. Around 150 hectares of farmlands can be irrigated with water from the canal if it was re-excavated, Prof Chowdhury added.
Transforming all the existing underground water-based irrigation into surface water ones can be the crucial means of lessening the gradually mounting pressure on groundwater tables.
He mentioned that the gradually declining water resources are posing a serious threat to the living and livelihood condition of the marginalized and other less-income group families in the water-stressed area. Meanwhile, Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA), an ever-largest irrigation-providing state-owned entity in the country’s northwest region, has started implementing a project titled “Small irrigation through pond re-excavation and surface water augmentation” recently.
BMDA Superintending Engineer Abdur Rashid said the five-year project is being implemented in 43 drought-prone upazilas of Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Naogaon, Bogura and Natore districts with an estimated cost of around Taka 128.19 crore.
Around 715 more derelict ponds and 10 other big closed water bodies will be brought under re-excavation aimed at making those suitable for use to both irrigation and household purposes in the region including its vast Barind tract within near future.
Upon successful implementation by December in 2023, the project will create scope of providing irrigation to 3,058 hectares of farming fields for yielding around 18,348 tonnes of additional crops yearly.
In addition, the scope of producing 1,088 tonnes of additional fish will be created through the conserved water. The initiative will contribute a lot towards improving surface water resources besides aquifer recharge in the drought-prone areas. It will also help reduce the gradually mounting pressure on underground water side by side with encouraging the people to boost the farming of fish and duck after the best uses of the conserved water.
Earlier, the BMDA has re-excavated 3,098 ponds, 2,011-kilometer canal and 413 dug-wells through implementation of various other projects in order to promote surface water-based irrigation till June last, Engineer Rashid added.
“We have a plan of elevating the surface water-based irrigation to 30 percent from the existing ten percent by 2030 in order to lessen the gradually mounting pressure on underground water,” Engineer Rashid said.
More than 12.58 lakh community people of 2.66 lakh households are being motivated and encouraged towards promoting and using the surface water resources to reduce the pressure on underground water under the ‘Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM)’ project.
The project is being implemented by DASCOH Foundation in around 1,280 drought-hit villages under 39 union parishads and three municipalities of eight upazilas in Rajshahi, Naogaon and Chapainawabganj districts since 2014, said Akramul Haque, chief executive officer of DASCOH Foundation.
The existing adverse impact of climate change is putting local people into trouble since the hand-driven tube-wells are not functioning here in dry season, he added.