Mazharul Islam, 48, of Daldali village under Volahat Upazila, is now happy over availing the scope of irrigating his farmland with river water in Irri-boro season.
"I have harvested 97 mounds of paddy from four bigha of lands with the irrigation this season. Whereas 80 mounds was harvested from the same land with deep tube-well irrigation in the previous season," he added.
Nibaran Das, 53, another farmer of Baliaghata village, said river water contain humus which is important for soil health as well as boosting crop production. "We have started enjoying the privileges of round the year irrigation," he added.
Like them, river water irrigation has made more than 7,500 farmers happy in the high Barind area as their dependence on deep tube wells and the mercy of rainfall has been reduced to a greater extent.
The pipeline network of river water has so far freed more than 16,950 bigha of land from the irrigation coverage of 15 deep tube-wells. The network contributes to produce 84,750 mounds of paddy in addition to reduction of gradually mounting pressure on aquifer.
For the purpose, 19 pumps commissioned in five points of Padma, Mohananda and Punarbhaba rivers in Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj districts are lifting river water and supplying those to the farmlands through 34,050 feet subsurface pipelines.
Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) Project established the infrastructures with financial support from Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation- SDC in order to make the farmers habituated to river-water irrigation.
DASCOH Foundation and Swiss Red Cross have jointly been implementing the IWRM project in 35 UPs and four pourasabhas in Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj districts since 2015.
Assistant Project Coordinator Jahangir Alam Khan told BSS that main thrust of the project is to build a sustainable and effective approach through farmers' level piloting of different sustainable water resource management models through farmers' participation.
"We have a plan of commissioning 12 more pumps and 9,000 feet subsurface pipelines to bring more other 10,000 bigha of lands under the coverage of river water irrigation by this yearend," Jahangir Khan said adding that the initiative will curtail dependence on around 40 to 45 deep tube-wells.
Tasiqul Islam, Chairman of Jhilim Union Parishad, said many of the hand-driven tubewells become ineffective during dry season when the deep tube wells remained functioning. The odd situation poses a serious threat to the living and livelihood condition of the people particularly the poor and ethnic minority. So, there is no alternative to protect the aquifer.
Disseminating his expertise on the issue, Prof Chowdhury Sarwar Jahan of Department of Geology and Mining in Rajshahi University expressed grave concern over the present trend of groundwater extraction for irrigation purposes.
He referred to the excessive use of groundwater for irrigation purposes leaving impacts on agriculture in the drought-prone area and mentioned that protecting groundwater resources has become indispensable for making its agricultural system protected and sustainable to feed the country's gradually increasing population.
To this end, judicious and careful use of ground water in agriculture sector is necessary to attain food sufficiency during the present day hazards of climate change.
Besides, adverse impact of climate change has been posing a serious threat to the overall public health especially relating to water and sanitation in the region, he added.
Stressing the need for environment-friendly more irrigation scheme like IWRM, he said there is no alternative to promote surface water based irrigation to protect the groundwater resources.