POST TIME: 5 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 4 September, 2018 10:26:12 PM
Barishal water lilies face extinction for pollution

Barishal water lilies face extinction for pollution

This recent photo shows red water lilies that have started to blossom in the lakes of many areas of Barishal district. INDEPENDENT PHOTO

Red water-lilies (Nymphaea nouchali), known in Bangla as ‘lal shapla’—an aquatic flower that grows in the wetlands of 16 villages under Agiljhara and Wajirpur upazilas of Barishal—are on the verge of extinction because of pollution.

‘Lal shaplas’ are mainly seen in the ‘bil’ areas of Agoiljhara and Wajirpur upazilas. Tourists visit these areas, especially during the monsoon, when the flowers are in full bloom. The water-lily or ‘shapla’ is a delicious food item for Bangladeshis. Rural people make a curry with it. Children love eating their stems, and even the green fruit.

Mustaq Ahmed Shamim, who lives in London, came to Satla village with his family during Eid-ul-Azah. “I came to know about the beauty of the ‘lal shapla’ in these places from social media. It was mind-blowing. The tourism ministry must take special measures to protect these areas. It must also start a package programme for tourists, which can generate a lot of revenues,” he said.

Setu Biswas from of Chittagong said: “The tourism department must pay special attention to these areas. I am struck by the sheer beauty of the place. Serious efforts must be made to attract more visitors.”

Felu Haldar and Sudhir Kirtania of Baropaika village under Agoiljhara said ‘lal shaplas’ used to transform the face of the place for about six months, from late summer to the rainy and autumn seasons. But now, things have changed. The flowers are no longer seen for such a long period of time because of pollution, they rued.

Khalilur Rahman, the plant preservation officer of Agoiljhara upazila, said: “Water bodies like canals, ‘bils’ and ‘haors’ are being filled up indiscriminately for agricultural and residential purposes, making the natural cultivation of water-lilies difficult. Farming of carp and grass varieties, irrigation and ‘boro’ farming have destroyed the natural cultivation grounds of red water-lilies.”

Nasiruddin, the upazila agricultural extension officer of Agoiljhara, said ‘lal shapla’ is a popular vegetable in the locality. It also has medicinal value for treating various diseases like dysentery, urinary and liver problems, diabetes, calcium deficiency, skin ailments and so on. The use of pesticides and the impacts of climate change are also threatening the cultivation of ‘lal shaplas’, he added. Farmers like Dinu Biswas and Shayamol Mandol of Agoiljhara complained that ‘lal shaplas’ are creating problems for ‘boro’ cultivation.

Beetles, moths or bees pollinate these flowers. After pollination, the stem curls up, pulling the flowers under the water, where they die. After that, the seed develops. When ripe, up to 2,000 seeds are released from each fruit.

Young seeds float as they contain air pockets. They are then dispersed by water currents or by the water birds that eat them. Rhizomes or the roots of 'lal shaplas' are connected with the soil, locally known as ‘shaluk’. Villagers collect them during the dry season. There are some 70 species of ‘lal shaplas’ all around the world. ‘Shaplas’ of four colours—white, pink, red and light blue—are found in Bangladesh. The white water-lily or ‘shada shapla’ is the national flower and state symbol of Bangladesh.