Munshiganj : Arial Beel, located south of the capital city, between the Padma and Dhaleshwari rivers, is the third largest wetland in Bangladesh covering an area of 136 square kilometres.
Breeding ground of a large number of fish species, Aral Beel turns into a vast sea during the rainy season. Though fishing continues to be the main occupation of the local community, in winter some portion of the beel turns green with the cultivation of various types of crops and vegetables.
During winter, the water in the "dengas" - big water bodies where plenty of water still remains - are used for Irri rice irrigation. Shaplas are collected from the water body while "Kolmishak" and other vegetables are also grown alongside paddy.
Dhaincha plants, which grow naturally, are also used by the local people.
But sweet pumpkins, some of them growing pretty large, are perhaps the most famous produce of the area. Ninety per cent of sweet pumpkin demand of the country is said to be met from this area.
Sagardighi is the biggest while Laldighi is the second biggest "denga." Boal, Chitol, Gozar and Koi are the famous fish species of the area. Sources told this visitor that fish worth about Tk 20 crore are sold every month.
During winter different species of guest birds fly into the beel in search of food, specially snails.
Local people use the road from Srinagar Bazar of Munshiganj, via Gadighat and Shyamsiddhi village, to go to Arial Beel.
The area is famous for Shyamsiddhi Math. According to the Bengali inscription at the southern entrance of the monastery, located in Shyamsundhatha village, on the west side of Srinagar market, Shambhu Nath Majumder, a wealthy person of Bikrampur, built it in 1836.
About 241 feet high, this structure is said to be five feet taller than Delhi's Qutub Minar. A large number of birds, including parrots and shalik, can also be seen here.
How to go
It takes about a day to go and come back to Dhaka from Arial Beel. Buses from Gulistan ply up to Srinagar market. Battery-operated rickshaws are available at Gadighat. Boats, traditional or with engines, can be hired for going round Arial Beel.
So why not take a day off to visit the famous water body.