Sixty-year-old Lalchand Das lives on fishing in the Chakirpasha river of Kurigram's Rajarhat upazila. Like him, 2000 people from 420 fishing families have been making a living by fishing in the river for years.
But this year, they are not being allowed to go fishing in the river as a group of local influential people, led by Abu Bakkar, got lease of the river, said the fishermen.
Das said he has been earning his livelihood by fishing in the river all the year round. But this year, he is not able to go fishing in the river.
If he does not get a chance to catch fish in Chakirpasha, he will have to sell his fishing nets and join work as day labourer, said Das.
Tara Bala Das, 65, a widow from Chandamari Daspara, said she has been fishing in the river since childhood. She raised her children by fishing. But this year, the men of the leasee of the river asked them not to go fishing.
She has also urged the authorities concerned to take immediate steps in this regard so that they can catch fish in the river again.
Jogen Chandra Das, president of the Chakirpasha Fishermen's Association, said the local administration has been leasing the Chakirpasha river since 1996. Usually, fishermen get the lease of the river and make a living by fishing.
"But this year, those got the lease of the river are not the members of their community. They have kept the whole river under their control. Fishermen are not allowed to go fishing in the river. We are helpless now. Many have already left their ancestral profession and started working as day labourers," said Jogen Das.
Contacted, Abu Bakkar said as he has recently taken lease of the river following the government rules, he will not allow others to catch fish in the river.
Out of 306 acres of land of the river, 164.71 acres have been grabbed till now, said sources at local administration.
Dr Tuhin Wadud, coordinator of Chakirpasha River Protection Committee, said the National River Protection Commission has directed the district administration to save the river from grabbers.
Rajarhat Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Noor-e-Tasneem said Chakirpasha is a beel, not a river in the official list. The water body has been leased out to the highest bidder from the deputy commissioner's office.Major portion of land in the beel has been occupied by grabbers.
They will conduct eviction drive after getting permission from the district administration, said the UNO.
Kurigram Deputy Commissioner (DC) Rezaul Karim said he has received a letter from the National River Protection Commission. He will reply to the commission's letter soon.
Replying to a query, the DC further said he will take immediate steps to resolve the problem of the fishermen.