The Bhairab river had started shrinking gradually since the 1980s when bridges and culverts were built one after the other over the river
The existence of Bhairab river, the lifeline of Jashore, now is in crisis.
Recently, an excavation work has been taken up to revive the river which is in its death throes because of rampant grabbing and pollution.
But a total of 51 bridges and culverts constructed over the river are apparently impeding the excavation work.
In reality, the Bhairab river had started shrinking gradually since the 1980s when bridges and culverts were built one after the other over the river.
Later, the river filling and its subsequent grabbing played a big part in reducing the width of the river.
Against this backdrop, the Water Development Board has recently sent a letter to the ministry concerned with a recommendation to take measures for demolishing the bridges and culverts.
Some 51 unplanned bridges and culverts have held back the course of the Bhairab River. There are 34 bridges in Jashore sadar upazila, 16 in Chowgachha and one in Kaliganj of Jhenidah.
Besides, the river is also experiencing grabbing and pollution.
The Road and Highways Department constructed a 20-metre-long bridge at Doratana, the centre of the river. But Bhairab's length in the town and outside is 150 metres and 300 metres respectively.
The situation of the 12-metre-long Kachuya Bridge is even worse. It is so narrow that little space is left for a rickshaw to run on the bridge if a small vehicle moves from the other side.
A large part of the river had been filled up for the bridge, allowing grabbers to feast on.
Alauddin Ali, a resident at Rajarhat of the district, said, "The river has been shrunk because of that bridge and many parts of it have also been occupied."
Many other bridges are also in similar conditions. The lengths of culverts are even narrower.
Prabir Kumar Goshwami, the executive engineer of the Jashore Water Development Board, said, "Those bridges and culverts have turned the Bhairab small, resulting in pollution and grabbing of the river."
"We have identified a total of 51 bridges and culverts which are hampering the river excavation work as well," he added.
A proposal has been sent to the ministry concerned to build new bridges by breaking down the old ones, Prabir said.
Iqbal Kabir Zahid, the adviser of the Bhiarab River Sanskar Andalan Committee, said, "In fact, the construction of bridges and culverts in an unplanned way has caused the river to shrink. As a result, its velocity has decreased drastically."
In the 1980s, big cargo ships from Khulna used to carry goods to Jashore town through using this river. Now it is possible to cross this on foot. And grabbers have occupied the dried-up portion, he added.
Dr Saibur Rahman Mollah, the chairman of the Environmental Science Department of Jashore University of Science and Technology, said the width of the Bhairab River has gradually reduced to 100-120 metres from once 250-300 metres.
In the town portion, its width has decreased all the more. Thus, the river is facing the threat of disappearance, he added.
The proper implementation of the river excavation project will play an important role in improving lifestyle of the people in this region. It will also contribute to the economic and environmental development, Dr Saibur said.
Work on the project to solve waterlogging problem at the Bhairab river basin area and to improve the sustainable water management is now underway at an estimated cost of around Tk273 crore.
Under the project, a 96km stretch of the Bhairab River will be re-excavated. A 10km walkway will be built and beautified along the riverbank at the town area.