Bangladesh’s largest freshwater lake inching towards death

By Mohammad Zoglul Kamal
DHAKA, Bangladesh, May 6 2019 (IPS-Partners)

(UNB/IPS) – Kaptai Lake, the biggest manmade lake in
Bangladesh, is heading for a tragic end as sediments fill up its
bottom and waste materials continue to pollute it every

The 688-square-kilometre lake, created by damming the Karnafuli
River in Rangamati for hydroelectricity in 1960, has been providing
livelihood for a large portion of the local population through
tourism, fishing, transportation and much else.

Pollution and the use of pesticides are playing big roles in the
water body’s decline, environmentalists say.

The lake, connecting six sub-districts, is traversed by
thousands of people every day. Waste and oil from the launches and
boats go into it, apart from those dumped by people living on its
edges, locals say.

It is unclear how much waste, including plastic and polythene,
is dumped into the lake daily. Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati AKM
Mamunur Rashid says he is not sure if there had been any cleanup

‘Never been dredged’

But siltation has turned out to be the major concern. The lake
has never been dredged in 59 years, says Commodore Mahbub-ul Islam,
chairman of Bangladesh Inland Water Transportation Authority

Although the lake’s average depth is nine metres, when the
water level recedes, it becomes dotted with small shoals. Launches
and steamers have to suspend operations until the water level

It is not just affecting the people dependent on the lake but
also hampering power production.

The 230-megawatt capacity hydroelectric power plant’s
production has come down to 110MW, says ATM Abjjur Zaher, the
project manager, noting that the situation will not improve until
there’s adequate rainfall.

It is an alarming situation that calls for urgent and effective
measures, local say. They are pushing for dredging but the idea is
opposed by some environmental activists.

MA Matin, general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, a
movement to protect the environment, argues that dredging is not a
permanent solution.

The water is more or less stagnant when a dam is constructed, he
notes. “If we remove silt now, the basin will again be filled up
in another 10 years,” he says, recommending searching for

Deputy Commissioner Rashid admits that there are pitfalls but
insists that it will be impossible to overcome the situation
without removing the silt.

He says the lake is gradually becoming unusable because of
siltation. “We’ve written to higher authorities but without any
result. Recently, a BIWTA team has conducted a survey of Kaptai
area,” he says.

Landslide scare

People, pushing for dredging, are not realising that it will
take time, Rashid says.

“You can’t just dredge the lake. More research is needed
before action, and issues like landslides should be considered,”
he tells UNB.

Md Mahbubul Islam, Soil Resource Development Institute’s
acting chief scientific officer in Bandarban, concurs.

“We can’t deny the possibility of landslides since dredging
will change the basin’s structure,” he says.

Islam suggests a long-term study and exploring ways to protect
the area and warns that otherwise, there will be a possibility of

He says the lake covers a huge area and needs time for studies
or to start dredging. The process will be a “little bit
complex”, he notes.

Sunil Kanti Dey, a Rangamati-based journalist who has seen
Kaptai Lake from its inception, says that it is now a pale shadow
of its former self.

“Restoring the lake’s former glory will be very difficult,
if not impossible,” he says. “It’ll be too late if we don’t
act now.”

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Bangladesh’s largest freshwater lake inching towards death

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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Bangladesh’s largest freshwater lake inching towards death