As many as 250 bigha of farmland have already been transformed into artificial reservoir
Three influential locals in Sharifpur union of Sadar upazila, Jamalpur leased farmland and are reaping profit from fish farming after illegally turning the land into reservoirs.
Sources said three years ago Golam Rabbani, Rasel, and Liton of the locality transformed 150 bigha of farmland in Berapathalia and Godashimla village, into artificial reservoirs without permission from the authorities.
Jamalpur Sadar upazila Assistant Commissioner [land] SM Mazharul Islam said: “No individual or organization holds the right to transform farmland. It’s illegal for leaseholders to transform fertile land into reservoirs.”
This year the influential leaseholders took, in some cases bought, a further 100 bigha of farmland, where excavators are being used to expand the reservoir, confirmed Jamalpur Sadar Upazila Nirbahi Officer Farida Yasmin.
She said: “Golam Rabbani was summoned to submit necessary documents for the reservoir after locals filed a written complaint regarding the matter. He was ordered to postpone the work pertaining to the reservoir’s expansion until we check the documents.”
Farmers alleged that Rabbani, Rasel, and Liton had taken lease of their farmland, or bought parts of it, with an unfair price through intimidation and force.
Families of the impoverished farmers fear that if the leaseholders continue to devour more land, it will create a crisis of the local food sources available to them.
Farmer Md Rafiqul Islam said: “Although the leaseholders are profiting from fish cultivation, the farmlands in our area are shrinking in size. My home and that of four other families lie within the areas leaseholders targeted. We are repetitively threatened to sell our land.
“Some people in the area have already vacated their ancestral home after being compelled to sell their land to the leaseholders.”
Golam Rabbani, the leader of the leaseholders, denied doing anything illegal and said: “We haven’t forced anyone to lease us the lands. Paddy cultivation is not very lucrative so farmers willingly leasing their lands for their benefit. Many are selling them.”
The leaseholders have been paying an annual amount of a mere Tk8,000 per bigha to the farmers; prior to being leased, the land yielded paddy, wheat, mustard and other seasonal crops.