There are many worth mentioning rivers, haor-baor, beel, hilly lands, forest lands in Habiganj District. Khowai, Shutang, Kushiara, Ratna, Shutki, Sonai, Karangi, Zingri, Veramohona, Barak, Bijna etc. rivers of amazing artistic names surround the town, Habiganj. But, for the imprudence of the land pirates, sand buccaneers and for some specific reasons, the existence of these rivers is now at stake.
Khowai is the main river of Habiganj. It’s a trans-boundary river between Bangladesh and India. Some controversy remains about the origin of Khowai. Mostly said, Khowai originates in the eastern part of the Atharamura Hills of Tripura in India. Flowing west and northward, Khowai enters Bangladesh at Balla in Sylhet District. The river further flows beside the east of Habiganj town and debouches into the Meghna near the mouth of the Kalni river at Nabiganj. The length of the river is approximately 109 miles. 93 kilometers of Khowai remains in Habiganj.
Once, Khowai was a fierce river. This river was called Habiganj’s sorrow. At before, in rainy season, for excessive rainfall and hilly water flows, the river used to be in an ruthless mood and often caused floods, waterlogging in the town. That is why in the decade of 70’s a 5 kilometres ‘loop cutting’( to straighten the zigzag) was done with volunteering work. Thus Habiganj relieved from food. But in last 35 years, the Government did not take any initiative of dredging or embelishment for Khowai. Day by day, the flow of Khowai is being emaciated to a slender situation. Limiting the water flow by Indian Government, occupation by the evil prominent class, no dredging and many other reasons are responsible for this. Yet a major part of Habiganj’s agriculture and buiness is related to Khowai. For lack of proper plan and unconsciousness, the navigability of the river have been decayed and hindered the river related lives. In some places the bottom of the river has become 8-10 feet high than the land surface of the town. As a result of this, the present flood situation of Habiganj is at alarming state.
To protect the town, in the decades of 70’s, there happened two ‘loop cutting’in Khowai. One from Masulia to Rampur, and another from Khowai Mukh to Gorurbazar. After loop cutting, the flow went beside the town. Then, the fierce flow which was through the town, became calm and serene. This flow got familiar with the name, ‘Old Khowai’. In the rainy season most of the rain water fills the Old Khowai. But now we see the town waterlogged even after a short duration rain. Occupying and filling the area of the Old Khowai are mainly responsible for this kind of situation. In recent times, the town and other surrounding areas are facing massive waterlogging.
Now the Old Khowai has become the biggest dustbin of Habiganj. The occupation process is working initially by throwing garbage and filth to the river. The land pirates and the evil prominent class are trying to occupy the river’s area. Sand buccaneers are raising sand in a wrong way. So, this might cause a big hazard for Habiganj.
From last 8 or 9 years, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) has launched many programmes in Habiganj against the pollution and occupation of Khowai river. To save the Khowai river, BAPA is now trying best to raise a social movement against the pollution and occupation.
To protect the Khowai river and the Old Khowai is vastly significant to save the environment, bio-diversity and ecosystem of Habiganj. None of any pragmatic steps by the government are seen till now. Many organisations, who work for environment are trying to enhance consciousness. But if, the public leaders, government officials and sensible peoples don’t come forward to protect the river, may be, the future of this river would be more worse then today. We must protect our river, otherwise, Habiganj is going to face an uncertain danger.
by Tofazzal Shohel Khowai River Waterkeeper and General Secretary Habiganj Branch and Member, National Council Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA)