KUSHTIA, Apr 23: People of the south-western part of the country are facing an acute crisis of pure drinking water as the underground water level is receding at an alarming rate due to drying up process of different big and small rivers.
The Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) sources said, the tube-wells in Kushtia, Magura, Jhenidah, Jessore, Meherpur, Chuadanga and different parts of Khulna cannot draw sufficient water.
Water is flowing at the lowest level in once mighty River Gorai, the main branch of the Padma River, said Executive Engineer Abdus Sattar of Ganga-Kabodak (GK) Irrigation Project. Due to this drastic fall in the flow of water, at least seven of the 15 rivers - Hisna, Kaliganga, Kumar, Hamkumra, Harihar, Chitra, and Kali, which are dependent on the Gorai River, are now nearly dead.
Now, the ecological balance of the entire region is under serious threat.
The 386-kilometre long Gorai River, an important source of fresh water in the south-western region, depends on the Padma River for its flow. As the flow of water in the Padma has remained lean in the dry season (December-May) for over three decades, the flow of water in the Gorai also sees gradual decline in the dry season.
Consequently, increased salinity in the coastal areas of the greater Khulna region poses a serious threat to the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest.
Increasing salinity in the region also leaves an adverse effect on water quality, nature, fishery, agriculture, navigability and trade in a vast area of the region.
Though the water crisis increases during the dry season, there is no authoritative step to address the matter.
The ecological balance of the north-western and eastern regions has already been destroyed and all related sectors like agriculture, environment, weather and biodiversity have been affected.
The Padma, flowing through the north-western and eastern parts of the country, has turned into a virtual desert over the last 14 years due to 'Farakka Effect' and appears to be in the death throes. Drastic fall in groundwater level, heavy deposition of silt, emergence of numerous shoals and erosion have posed as a serious threat to the overall ecological balance of the northern region.
The subterranean water level has gone by 80 to 90 feet and if the trend continues, the flora and fauna will be totally destroyed. This is a clear process of desertification.
The water level in the Padma River at Paksey point is below all time past records, said Sub-Assistant Engineer of Paksey Railway Division Dipak Chandra Bose.
Many sweet water fish have already disappeared due to the desertification effect across Kushtia. Rivers, tributaries, canals, marshes and other water bodies are drying up fast.
In the past, the strong current in the Padma and the Gori rivers was so strong that the sound of the water dashing against the pillars of the Hardinge Bridge was heard from half a mile away. But now that is history.
Sources said, at least eight lakh shallow tube-wells have been installed in 10 districts of the south-western region so far with government and private initiatives of which about 4.5 lakh cannot reach the underground water layer.
A source of the DPHE here told The Daily Observer that the groundwater level in some parts of Kushtia district has gone down by 26ft more than its usual level.
He said, all the rivers in the south-western region have become dry as India withdrew excessive water from the Padma River through the Farakka Barrage.
Meanwhile, experts said that one of the major reasons of the decrease in water level is the excessive use of shallow tube-wells in extracting water.