ASM Younus’s Haorbaseer Jibonkotha

The word ‘Haor’(wetlands) in bangla origins from the word ‘Sagar’(sea). By the course of time the word ‘Sagar’(sea) changes into ‘sayor’ and then took the form ‘Haor’ and as a dialect people pronounce it ‘Aaor’. Through people’s everyday use of the language the ‘sh’ sound was replaced by the ‘h’ sound and the ‘h’ sound is replaced by the ‘a’ sound.The wetlands area remains under water for 6 months during the rainy season and in summer when the level of water decreases they look like islands. In the period of East Pakistan Sylhet and Sunamgonj were a part of Asam. The wetlands area of Bangladesh covers 7 Jilla , 52 Upajilla, with an area of  2500 square kilometer in total.

The history of the origin of the wetland area is divided into two different schools of opinions, one of which says that it emerges from the sea. The fossils of oysters and other sea fishes and animals proof so. Another says that a serious earth quake changes the landscape. Astagram is such a big wetlandthat it seems like Bay of Bengal in the rainy season. Hakaluki is the biggest wetland of Bangladesh. There are near about 376 wetlands in total in Bangladesh. Chinese traveller Hsüan-tsang says that the East and West area of Bangla (present Bangladesh) had a huge water flow but he did not mention or referred it as a sea.

Ananta Kastul is the first person who came here and founded the Kastul village. Among the inhabitants of wetlands area there are Hajong, Koch, Khasia who lives in the village Astagram and of different races. The Malonia land was under the Khasia and the present Netrokona Jilla was under Koch. The Koches had their own source of water as every Koch house had their won ponds and lakes. There were 1992 ponds in total. There were a prominent number of Koch temples of which some have survived till now,

The inhabitants of the wetlands area suffers with many problems. The rainy season remains there for six months and boat is the only transportation then. In late Autumn the roads are dry and people can walk on foot. Again for later 2 months people neither can walk on foot nor can use the boat because of extensive muddy roads and lands.

In every fiscal year, Govt put a fund of  20,26,00,000 almost of which is returned back. This happens because the bill passed in Jun-July comes to the hand of administration in January when the water level starts rising and therefore the money has no works.

The general hospital is about 11 kilometer far from the villages which takes 5/6 hours to reach. So during the pregnancy period, the mothers suffers so badly.

The education system of the wetlands area is so poor and bad in condition. In harvest time there is no students and no teachers. From January 20 to February 20, it is school holiday for the students.

Boro rice is the main corps of wetlands area. Though 1/5 rice of Bangladesh comes from the wetlands area, the Govt  has no strong steps to help the farmers. When the ripe paddy goes under water they have no place to keep the paddy.

In 1947, after the partition of India-Pakistan, Sylhet becomes a part of Bangladesh. The cut down of trees and mountains in that time of that area has its bad impact till now. The rain water brings a huge amount of sands which is changing the fertility of the lands. Once in a rainy season 72 villages, 21 primary schools, 9 temples washed away with the huge flow of water.

The 1/10 portion fishes of Bangladesh comes from wetlands area but the power and the hierarchy system along with the lease system of the capitalist market keeps the fishermen poor. The kaybarta( fishermen) races came here relaying on fishes. Every year the ‘Jalmahal’ (lease) system creates internal conflicts among the powered parties as a result of which 10/11 murder takes place there repeatedly in every year.

The ‘Afgan” people started the ‘Dadan’ (loan) system here first which is continued to till now by the teachers and other capitalists.Sher – e Bangla A. K. Fajlul Haque stopped this system for a certain period but now there is no other system without it

The unplanned construction of bridge and culverts breaks the flow of water and therefore the lands  emerge in the rivers which is badly in need to be dug. There are 24 rivers which has no water now because of it. The roads and transportations need to be developed with a well planned way.

The Govt. budget needs to be fixed for a certain time keeping balances with the geographical conditions and situations.The Tipaimukhi Badh (a dam) also puts a large and long term negative impact on the area.

This bare situations and conditions of the wetlands area needs attention of the mainstream society so that their acute problem will come into light. Writer Humayun Ahmed wrote his novel Magic Munshi when he practically watched and realizes the unbearable conditions and situations of those areas.

 

This note is based on a 43rd public lecture of BDSF on “Haorbaseer Jibonkotha” given by ASM Younus, who has worked there for 2 and a half years more. After a research on those wetlands area and the people there he has written a book Haorbaseer Jibonkotha.

 

Nushrat Jahan Sinthia

Head of Documentation, Bangladesh Study Forum (BDSF)

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