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Case Study on Campaign Against the Adverse Effects of Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project (KJDRP)


On your way to Monirampur from Nowapara in Jessore, if you look at both sides, you will see a good number of waterlogged beels.* And on your way from Daulatpur to Shahpur in Khulna just look on the right, totally waterlogged, Beel Dakatia is there. About 100600 hectares of land of Jessore and Khulna have become waterlogged today.

If you stand on the Baliakhali bridge on the Khulna-Satkhira highway, at a distance of 20 km from Khulna, and look below, you'll be greeted with a sorry sight of the once mighty Hamkura river silted up, its stream reduced to a trickle. Such siltation of rivers has caused water-logging in this region.

The Hamkura is not the only river in the greater Khulna region to be silted up - the Bhadra, the Hari, the Shalta, the Harihar and some other rivers have shared the same fate. A few others, such as the Ghangrail, the Teligati and the Haria are threatened with siltation.

Water-logging is an ever-increasing threat that is fast gaining in intensity.

For the last few years, newspapers are publishing daily reports about the suffering caused by water-logging. Environmental disasters like water-logging, siltation and salinity are common occurrences in our region and these are causing unimaginable sufferings for the people. But in his book, The History of Jessore-Khulna, Mr. Satish Chandra Mitra wrote, ‘The just discovered fallow land of ages yields a golden harvest if only a handful of seeds is thrown into it. In order to reap that golden harvest, people braved their dear lives in lands full of dangerous beasts of prey.’ He further wrote, ‘Both the area of human habitation and the population itself are increasing because of the greed for staple crops.’ It is learnt from the land survey reports that, even as recently as in the last part of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth, the production of agricultural crops in this region was satisfactory. The standard of life was also satisfactory. Yet, that fertile region is now beset with natural disasters.

In the backdrop of the government's failure to solve this crisis, people have taken-up alternative drainage concepts on their own. For example, in the case of 'Beel Dakatia', the mass involvement of local people to solve the water-logging problem has been internationally acclaimed.

The people were pressing hard for formulation of an environmentally friendly project to mitigate water-logging problem. But the Water Development Board failed to implement the project taking proper account of the existing eco-system. The latest project aimed at mitigation of water-logging is the Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project (KJDRP). At the very inception of the project in 1993-94, the local people expressed their doubts about the effectiveness of the project. The people apprehend that the project, if implemented, will worsen the situation and multiply people's sufferings beyond the tolerable limit. So they kept on demanding the review of the project in question.

*beel = lowland, marsh.

NGOs gradually got involved with these problems and in tune with the expectation of the people started organizing advocacy for an eco-friendly solution to the water-logging problem. This advocacy program of the NGOs, aimed at mitigation of water-logging problem of this region has unique characteristics. At first Uttaran, took initiative for solution of the water-logging of its program area in the year 1989-90. This initiative enabled it to understand the water-logging problem of this region.(5) Later on Uttaran got involved with the local people in the movement against KJDRP as soon as it was taken up. Uttaran gradually convinced other local NGOs to adopt an environmental friendly outlook and pursued the Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh (ADAB) - the leading apex body of NGOs and Coalition of Environmental NGOs (CEN) unanimous with their opinion, joined hands with the people at grassroots level. Afterwards review of KJDRP was included in the advocacy program of ADAB & CEN.

Relentless advocacy on the part of ADAB & CEN ultimately convinced Asian Development Bank (ADB) to critically review KJDRP and though partially, on the basis of people's demand, agreed to go for an eco-technological solution to the water-logging problem; which is termed Tidal River Management (TRM) concept. This resulted in some alteration of the drainage plans, in the context of specific ecological characteristics of South-West Coastal Region. This report contains a brief account of the phenomenon of water-logging, of the Govt. projects taken up so far in the zone, people's movement and advocacy programs of NGOs.


Introduction of the area

The study area is in the southwestern part of Bangladesh under greater Khulna and Jessore districts. It lies between latitudes 22° 90¢ N and 23° 15¢ N and, longitudes 90° 00¢  E, excluding parts of Sundarbans. The total area is about 8,000 sq. km.

Climate of the area

Climate of this region is the salt laden air throughout the year specially, when winds blow from the sea. The air becomes more and more humid and salty towards south. Four distinctive seasonal weather patterns are: dry winter season, pre-monsoon season, monsoon season and post monsoon season.

Dry winter season starts from December and lasts till February. Rainfall is infrequent, temperature is in the low twenties and humidity gradually decreases during the season. Salinity of the soil and water, specially in the south, is considerably high. Pre-monsoon season is a transitional period between dry winter and monsoon seasons. It starts from March and last till May. This season normally characterised by severe cyclonic storm of oceanic origin. The monsoon season starts from June and lasts till September. This season is characterised by heavy rainfall under the influence of the southwest monsoon. Post monsoon season is another transitional season starting from October and lasting till November. This season is also characterized by violent tropical cyclonic storms of maritime origin. Storms of this season are however, more severe and destructive than those developed in the pre-monsoon season. Moreover, during pre-monsoon season recently, lot of sedimentation took place in the rivers of this region. The maximum and minimum temperature usually ranges from 29° C to 40° C and 05° C to 15° C (ANON, 1992). Average annual rainfall of the area during period 1965 to 1990 is about 1750 mm (ANON, 1993). The relative humidity percentage ranges from 75 to 64 in the dry season and 75 to 87 in the wet season (ANON, 1991).

Rivers of the area

The area is mainly drained by a number of north south flowing rivers. From east to west, important rivers are the Gorai-Madhumati-Baleswar rivers, the Bhairab-Pusur rivers, the Bhadra-Gengrail rivers, the Hari-Teka-Mukteswari rivers, Sibsa river, the Kabadak-Betna rivers and the Jamuna-Ichamati-Kalindi rivers. Most of the rivers are tidal in nature. These north-South rivers are interconnected by east-west rivers. In this region, flows of these east-west rivers are very important for the complete circulation of tide all over the tidal flat. In the rainy season, water becomes fresh to slightly salty and in the dry season, it becomes salty. Most of the river waters carry appreciable amount of suspended load.

The inland rivers represent the remaining channels of the old spill or regional rivers, which have lost their connection to the oldest boundary river, the Ganges. The Kumar, Nabaganga, Kabadak, Bhairab are good examples of such inland rivers. The inland and regional rivers run into tidal rivers or estuaries. In the greater Khulna area, the coastal rivers or estuaries are mainly saline because freshwater discharges are very low, specially in dry season. The flow regimes are driven by high, variable sediment laden flows. The rivers of this region show a continuous process of siltation gradually from the NW towards the SE direction.

Geology of the area

The area surfaced by alluvial and paludal deposits. Alluvial deposits are tidal deltaic deposits and deltaic silt deposits. Paludal deposits are marsh clay and peat deposits (Alam, et. al., 1992).

  1. Tidal deltaic deposits
Sediments mainly composed of clay, silty clay and silt. Occasionally, fine to very fine sand along the active and abandoned channels including crevasse splays. Sediments are light grey to greenish grey in colour. In places, it weathered into yellowish grey colour. Vertically, sediments are inter-layer of clay, silty clay with peat; clayey peat and peaty clay; wood present both in clay and peat/peaty clay layers. ii) Deltaic silt deposits Sediments are silt, clayey silt and silt. Silt and clayey silt are dusky yellow in colour. Normally, there is alternation of silty clay and clayey silt with fine to very fine sand. Along the natural levees, sediments are fine to very fine sand with silt and sandy silt. At depth sediments are sandy in nature. iii) Marsh clay and peat deposits Paludal deposits, deposited in the swampy environment. Clay is grey to bluish grey in colour. Peat is black in colour. Alternation of clay and peat or clayey peat are common. At the center of the marsh basin, peat is the thickest unit. Wood present at depth in peat, peaty clay, clayey peat and clay deposits. Subsidence is greater in the peat areas. This subsidence is not only due to the tectonic reason but also due to shrinkage of top of the peat layers and oxidation of carbonaceous matters (Egglesmann, 1982). Physiography of the area

Important physiographic units are: Peat basins, Ganges tidal floodplain and floodplain.

i) Peat basins

Relatively low trough like depressions surrounded by the Ganges River floodplain are peat basins. These basins remain under water for about 8-9 months of the year. Here active processes are paludal processes. Water and soil are saline to slightly saline in nature and salinity level controlled by fresh water flow from the upstream and rainfall. Sediments are high in organic matters and interbedded with peat and peaty layers. ii) Ganges tidal floodplain Relatively broad more or less flat to trough like plains dissected by numerous tidal channels bounded by the Ganges floodplain to the north and Sundarbans to the south is the Ganges tidal floodplain. Tidal plain is strongly influenced by tide, salinity and rainfall. This plain is also crisscrossed by numerous tidal creeks or channels and have high drainage density. The average tide difference is about 2 meters. Most of the areas are in between 1 to 3 meters above mean sea level and have southward regional slope. The water and the soil are saline but in the rainy season salinity becomes low. Fresh water flow from the upstream regions and the tide normally control the salinity of this region. Sediments are mostly clay, silty clay and in many places alternated with peat and peaty clay at depth.
iii) Ganges floodplain Relatively more or less flat plains with well-developed natural levees and back-swamps bounded by the tidal plain to the south are Ganges floodplain. In this inactive plain no depositional processes are acting now. Now, the active processes are denudation processes. Rivers are seasonal and only fed by rainwater. In the southern part of the Ganges floodplain, the tide water feed some rivers only during the spring tide. The tide difference is less than 1 meter. Sediments are silt, sandy silt and clayey silt. Along the rivers, sediments are sandy in nature.

Each physiographic unit has its own morpho-dynamics. Peat basins characterized by its paludal processes. Ganges tidal floodplain characterized by its normal tidal action. Ganges floodplain characterized by normal denudation processes. The land and water management of each physiographic unit is different from other physiographic units. Moreover, the morphodynamics of the boundary zone of two or more physiographic units is very complex.

Historical background of the water-logging, siltation problems

In the study area, crop failure due to saline water inundation and monsoon flooding was common. Since 17th century, Zamindars/ Landlords temporarily constructed low dikes and wooden sluice gates around the area to protect the arable land from above hazards. In the rainy season, farmers exchanged saline water of their fields with river water when it became almost sweet. Sweet water normally washed away the salinity from the land. Thus they got good harvest of paddy as well as varieties of fish. Due to this traditional practice, there was a balance between sedimentation and subsidence of the area. Thus, the environment, eco-system and bio-system evolved in the coastal area were in equilibrium. The problem of crop failure still existed, as dikes were not sufficiently high and strong. Opening of sluice gates were not enough and gates were weak. These were temporary structures and need to be repaired every year.

After abolition of Zamindars/ Landlords system, the maintenance of these structures became disrupted. As a result, the problem related to land-water management became serious and crop failure occurred frequently. In 1959, to solve this problem, a big program of construction and maintenance of permanent polders was undertaken by the then government. In the Khulna and part of the Jessore districts, 39 polders (10,14,100 acres) were constructed (Aftabuzzaman, 1990). The main objectives were to protect the arable lands from tidal inundation and flooding, and to achieve more crop production.

In 1984, Beel Dakatia, a part of polder No. 25 became waterlogged due to rapid siltation of the Solmari, Hamkura and Hari rivers for the first time. Now this problem has spread in polder nos. 36, 25, 24, 27, 28, 17, 1, 3 and 5. Moreover, lands outside the polder in the greater Jessore district are now under water. This problem is still creeping to the northern part as well as in the southern part of the poldered area.

Description of waterlogged areas

There are two types of waterlogged areas, anthropogenic waterlogged areas and natural waterlogged area. Natural waterlogged areas are historic water pockets, the wet lands of this region.

Anthropogenic waterlogged areas are the water pockets that formed mainly due to human activities (poldering) together with other factors. Here, problems are due to unperfected permanent or seasonal water congestion. It is hampering the normal land-use, ecology, morphodynamics, economical activities and normal activities of life of the area.

Causes of the water-logging and siltation problem

The main causes of water-logging as identified are:

  1. Existence of permanent polders and their mismanagement.
  2. Construction of ill planned polders.
  3. Decrease of upland flow.
  4. Anthropogenic factors.
  1. Existence of permanent polders and their mismanagement
Due to construction of permanent embankments on both sides of the river, no water is able to enter into the tidal flat. Sedimentation only takes place on the channel bed, causing very rapid deposition on the channel bed and no or very limited sedimentation on the tidal flat. These processes ultimately upraise the river's beds higher than the adjacent tidal flats, effects of which ultimately cause inundation in tidal flats and drainage congestion. This is the main cause of water-logging and siltation problems in this region. ii) Construction of ill planned polders Polders constructed without considering the morphodynamics, geological conditions and tectonic of the area. The land and water management of each geologic and geomorphic unit is different from other units. Moreover, the morphodynamics of the boundary zone of two or more units is very complex. During construction of the polders, authority did not consider these units. There are overlapping of units in one polder (Examples, polder No. 24, 25, 1, 2 etc.). In overlapped polders, morphodynamics become very complex. Ultimately, it causes different types of problems specially, in the boundary zone of different units of the polders (Water-logging, siltation, etc.)

Normally, peat areas require special type of land and water management when empoldered. So, improper management systems may cause water-logging earlier in peat polders than other polders as happened for polders nos. 36, 25, 1 and 3. Moreover, subsidence is greater in the peat area. This subisdence is not only due to tectonic reason but also due to shrinkage of top layers and oxidation of carbonaceous materials (Egglesmann, 1982).

iii) Decrease of upland flow In the study area, the Matabhanga and the Gorai rivers are the main distributaries of the Padma river. About 160 years ago, the Matabhanga river began to silt up at its mouth (Mitra, 1914) and now completely silted. Due to siltation of this river, all its distributaries are now receiving practically no water from upstream region (Kumar, Chitra, Bhairab, Kabadak, Nabaganga, etc.). Only the Kumar river is receiving very little water in the rainy season. Similarly, the mouth of the Gorai river, about 140-150 years before, began to silt up. Later due to construction of the Gorai railway bridge near Kushtia city, the rate of siltation increased tremendously (Mitra, 1914). Now this river is receiving almost no water in the dry season.

Moreover, construction of Farakka barrage on the Ganges river caused a sudden decrease of flow below the Ganges river known as the Padma river and its distributaries. Local information are just after withdrawal of the Ganges water by Farakka barrage in 1976, the rate of siltation on river's beds increased tremendously specially, in the Ganges tidal plain.

iv) Aanthropogenic factors Recently, the communication networks of this region developed tremendously. Most of the roads are in east-west direction whereas the regional slope and drainage directions are in the north-south direction. These east-west roads are obstructing the natural drainage and are enhancing drainage problem in this region.

Mismanagement of sluice gates and willful misuse of land and water by the influential people are also important causes of water-logging. For example, each tidal channel has its own catchment area and if anyone closes it for pisci-culture, it will cause inundation to its upstream. This way, in many polders there is conflict of shrimp farming and paddy cultivation, which causes water-logging in many cases.

Effects of Water-logging

Only an insignificant area of land is being made cultivable in the high season by waterlogging. Mostly, it is destroying houses, disrupting communication and the rhythm of daily life, drying up coconut, palm, and date palm trees and reducing the number of domestic animals. Because of water-logging, fuel crisis is becoming acute, the collection of wood fuel and drinking water is becoming increasingly more difficult; human waste is being thrown into water in the absence of dry land and farmers are turning into fisher-folks as agricultural lands are submerged. Many have migrated to other areas as life is becoming difficult to support.

Initiatives to solve water-logging caused by polders

Three different types of initiatives have so far been taken to solve the problems of water-logging.

  1. People's initiatives;
  2. Government projects;
  3. Advocacy of the NGOs.
a. People's Initiatives Fifteen years after the construction of the coastal embankments, water-logging began to emerge in the polders of upper part of this region (in polder no 24.25 etc.) The people of the waterlogged area initially thought water-logging to be a temporary problem, and petitioned the authority to solve it. Gradually, however, with the realization of its severity, solving water-logging became a people's demand. As the authority paid no heed to their grievances, people themselves took the initiative to organize and mobilize the community, and devise plans for solving the problem. From their own experience and observation, people could identify the polders as the main cause for water-logging and began to present their reasoned arguments for breaching or cutting away polders to allow unrestricted tidal flows for solving the problem. Their logic was that if tidal flows can be made free, the navigability of the rivers will be restored, the beels will be free from water-logging, alluvials will accumulate inside the beels, and as a result the bed level of beels will rise. The first manifestation of this logic was seen in September, 1990, when the polder of Beel Dakatia was breached at four places. This concept is called Tidal River Management (TRM) system. The consequences of the people's action and the value of popular wisdom

Through one of the four cuts made in the embankment. Beel Dakatia was again connected with the river Hamkura. Through regular tidal actions and the accumulation of alluvials, the land formation process of the beel resumed. In two years from 1990 to 1992, 2500 acres of char (newly risen) land emerged. We saw paddy being cultivated in the char lands in October 1992. The logic which worked behind direct intervention by the local people was based on their experience and popular wisdom. The disaster that the polder caused was mitigated to an extent by the people's action. Popular wisdom was reflected in the fact that the resumption of tidal action restored the balance that was lost when the supply of alluvials was cut off from the beel by the polder.

The experience has proved that if people take initiatives to face their problems, they can expose the faults of any large engineering work that concerns their lives and livelihood.

Social Impacts of Beel Dakatia Movement

The success in draining out water of Beel Dakatia encouraged people of adjacent waterlogged areas. They organized themselves and formed committees at different levels and took initiative to turn their waterlogged land into agricultural land again. Madhukhalir beel and Patra beel are examples of such collective efforts. However, these efforts could not achieve desired results at every stage because of a lack of proper organizational structure and planning.

However, the initiatives and innovativeness of people drew attention of the policy makers and donor agencies and they began taking people's involvement in solving the problem of water-logging quite seriously.

In the mean time, Bhabadaha (Jessore zone) area started to experience widespread waterlogging. The people of the area organized themselves to solve the problem. They removed the accumulated silt in front of the Bhabadaha sluice gates every year with their own hands, and opened a narrow drainage channel. Thus, each year, they retrieved some land for agricultural production.

Deciding on an appropriate approach to the solution of waterlogging problems

It is important to decide on a proper approach to the management of natural resources and eco-systems, especially for a region like the south-western coastal region with a complex and fragile environment and ecology.

An appropriate technology for a permanent solution of the water-logging problem should be realistic and consistent with the environment and ecology. Large scale structural projects under traditional engineering is expensive both in terms of construction and maintenance. Besides, if the project is not consistent with environment and ecology, it causes irreparable losses in the long run. Instant solutions to water-logging like dredging of rivers or any other large scale scheme that reflect mechanical-technological approach are very costly and have more far reaching effects on nature, necessitating newer plans to correct them, and newer costs. This leads to a vicious cycle. Therefore, projects to solve the waterlogging problems of the south-western coastal region with a complex and sensitive ecosystem should be taken up from a eco-technological point of view.

Tidal River Management (TRM): Lesson learnt from people

People have developed Tidal River Management concept (TRM) to mitigate waterlogging problem of this region.

On the basis of Tidal River Management option waterlogged area and areas susceptible to water-logging can be converted into tidal basins on rotational basis with modification of existing structures and allow sedimentation under planned way. This is a non-regulator/ non-structural type of solution.

The main theme is deposition of suspended load gradually under controlled system from tidal channels up to the mean high tide level in the waterlogged and susceptible waterlogged areas. This planned way means deposition will be in a certain site or sites by a specific tidal channel or channels. Later depositional site will be shifted to other sites according to the topography of the area. This main difference of deposition under planned condition in waterlogged and susceptible waterlogged areas are; in case of waterlogged areas, deposition will be started from the nearest site of the feeder channel or channels. In case of susceptible areas, deposition will be started from the distant part of the feeder channel/ channels. In some cases, the position of cuts need to be shifted for proper and maximum siltation in a basin. Depending upon the position of the waterlogged areas, different methods of TRM must be adopted for different types of basins.

Practical Examples of TRM This is still a conceptual idea developed by NGOs later supported by EGIS and formulated by SMEC but still it has some practical bases based on the experience gained from beel Dakatia, Bhaina beel and other small beels.

i) Experience of Beel Dakatia

In mid September 1990, after prolonged hardship the people of beel Dakatia made public cuts in the embankment at four locations. For public cuts nos. 1 to 3 no significant sedimentation was recorded near the cuts. For public cut no. 4 appreciable sedimentation took place. Deposition that took place in the beel Dakatia area through Sundar khal during 1990-92 over an area of about 900 ha. As a result of deposition, about 200 ha. of land are now absolutely above water and within 1-2 years there was no soil salinity problem at all. At a distance of more than 3.3 km. no significant sedimentation seems to have occurred. The volume of materials deposited upstream of the public cut could not be accurately measured due to lack of data. This deposition took place under natural condition. If this deposition could take place under planned way, the result would have been more and more satisfactory. Moreover, after the public cuts, the Hamkura river reported to have been a strongly flowing river with a width of 300 ft. and depth of about 30 ft. at the new highway bridge over Hamkura River on the Khulna-Chuknagar Road. On the basis of this satisfactory result, it can be concluded that TRM would be more applicable for small pockets like Paiga beel, Pathra beel, etc. It can be also tested for big beels as a pilot project. ii) Bhaina Beel experiences On 29 October 1997, the public cut on the right embankment along the Hari River a short distance above the Sholgati to allow the tide to freely enter and leave beel Bhaina. The objectives of the public cut were to improve downstream drainage in the Hari River that would ultimately drain water from the Kedaria and Bokar beel areas of Kesabpur and Monirampur thanas and to raise the level of the beel by sedimentation.

Interview with the local people and field visit indicate that about 30%-40% of the Bhaina beel has already silted. More siltation is in front and west of the cut, north and north-west there is very little siltation. Local opinion is if siltation is now allowed from cut 2, instead of cut 1, north and northwest of the beel would be filled rapidly. This type of shifting of silt feeding channel according to the configuration of the beel will be the manner in which TRM should be implemented.

River bed profile survey of the Hari River was not conducted in March 1998, but in August 1999 after field visits it can be stated that the average width of the Hari River downstream of the cut is now three times greater than before the cut. The depth of the Hari River near Solgati Bazar is about 35 ft.

Another important observation is upstream of the cut there is no silt in the water and water from the upstream beels drain out easily and became partly free of water-logging.

iii) Bharter Beel experiences The location of Bharter beel is south of the Bhaina beel along the west bank of the Hari River in Kesabpur thana. About 16 years ago due to poor operation and maintenance of a wooden sluice gate, this beel became open naturally. Through this natural cut, this beel silted up rapidly and later people closed the cut. The total area of Bhaina beel is about 200 ha. now free from water-logging problem. This is a unique example of sustainability of TRM option. There is no water-logging problem in this area for the last 15 years. iv) Golnar Beel experiences The location of Golnar beel and its adjacent Bahadurpur beel, Magurkhali beel and Mesagona beel are in the Dumuria thana. These beels became open by a natural cut in July 1990, and silted very rapidly within 4 months. Later, local people closed the natural cut and now free from water logging problem. Total areas of these beels are about 150 ha. Local information is, here 4-5 ft. siltation took place within 4 months. This is another example of TRM. Government Projects to Solve Waterlogging

Khulna Coastal Embankment Rehabilitation Project -- 1 (KCERP).


Coastal Embankment Rehabilitation Project -- 2 (CERP).

After water-logging emerged as a problem, and to solve water-logging problem of Beel Dakatia, "Khulna Coastal Embankment Rehabilitation Project - I" was approved. The project aimed at rehabilitating about 78,793 acres of land under Dumuria, Fultala and Batiaghata thanas of Khulna district. But the people within the project area rejected the plan and the donor agency also found the technical aspects of the project faulty. As a result, the project was withdrawn after a year. Later, a new draft plan, 'Coastal Embankment Rehabilitation Project - 2 (CERP)' was prepared that also included polder no. 24 of Beel Dakatia area within its design.

Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project (KJDRP)


Although a draft plan for CERP project was prepared for solving the water-logging problem, it could not be implemented for different reasons. Later, with financial and technical assistance provided by Asian Development Bank (ADB), Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project (KJDRP) was taken up in 1993-94. With an initial estimated expenditure of 62 million dollars (Tk.229 crores and 50 laks), it was the largest project of its kind taken up so far. The six year project is being implemented by Bangladesh Water Development Board, with assistance provided by Agricultural Extension Department and the Department of Fisheries. The aim of the project is to 'solve the water-logging problem to increase agricultural production and alleviate poverty of the area through farm-based employment generation.'

The project implementation authority hopes that if the project is implemented in time, about 100,600 hectares of land of 68 unions under 8 thanas of Khulna and Jessore districts will become free from water-logging; as a result, about 800,000 people will benefit from a poverty free and healthy life.

The project area lies within the coastal embankment project, to the south-west of the main Khulna-Jessore highway. Fultala, Metro, Batiaghata and Dumuria thanas of Khulna district, and Sadar, Abhoynagar, Keshabpur and Monirampur thanas of Jessore district are included in the project area.

The project has the following components:

  1. Involvement of the target population at every stage of the project;
  2. Physical infrastructure rehabilitation programme;
  3. Agricultural development;
  4. Fisheries development.
Brief description of successive proposals

During the planning stage of the Second Coastal Embankment Rehabilitation Project Haskoning (1993) designed a drainage plan.

This plan was divided into two parts - the Khulna part consisting polders 25.28 and 27. and the Jessore part or the north-west part.

The planners' observation was that "the drainage plan of the Khulna part was found satisfactory, but the drainage plan of the north-west part was not acceptable to the people. Three alternative proposals were initially made for this part."

The problem is with Jessore region. Huskoning drainage plan was formulated first. The people opposed this plan. Afterwards five drainage plans were formulated in succession and presented before the people. All these were abandoned in the face of peoples resistance. A brief statement of the plans and the apprehended resultant negative impacts are furnished below.

The drainage plans were -

CERP proposal, also known as Huskoning plan: FAP-4 proposal, also known as Halcrow plan; the plan proposed by the engineers of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB); The plan proposed by the consultants of Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project (KJDRP proposal).

Later, KJDRP proposal was modified and enlarged, and came to be known as KJDRP-1 and KJDRP-2 plans.

Command area of the drainage proposals

Huskoning Plan -- 1006

Halcrow Plan -- 1306

BWDB Plan -- 1306

[The action area of the two later proposals has 300 more area than in the Huskoning Plan] KJDRP-1 Proposal -- 1006

KJDRP-2 -- 1126

[120 more area than in the Huskoning Plan]

Estimated cost of the Drainage Plans (in Taka)

Huskoning Plan according to the first drainage plan -- 229 crores 48 lakh

Modified Huskoning Plan -- 238 crores 27 lakh

FAP - 4 Plan -- 286 crores 29 lakh

BWDB Engineers' Plan -- 274 crores 16 lakh

KJDRP-1 -- 216 crores 23 lakh

KJDRP-2 -- 233 crores 22 lakh

Review of the above proposed drainage plans under Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project (KJDRP).

The proposed drainage plans under Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project has been reviewed in three sections.

    1. Review of the concept;
    2. Review of activities so far implemented by KJDRP;
    3. Review of the effectiveness of the proposed drainage plans.
1. Review of the concept of proposed drainage plans under KJDRP The geo-characteristics of the region had not been considered. The positive role of the alluvials in the process of the land formation had been ignored. The main thrust had been to prevent tidal water from entering the project area and to confine the alluvials outside the project area. The navigability of a few selected rivers were expected to be maintained, allowing smaller rivers to silt up and die. The plans aimed to keep water levels outside the main proposed regulators during the ebb tides lower than that of the waterlogged polders. As a result, the navigability and the water level of some rivers would be maintained at the cost of other smaller rivers, which would be allowed to die. This, in effect, overlooked the interconnected nature of the rivers and the overall drainage system that the rivers have built up through an intricate network, were ignored. Rivers were seen as isolated, not interconnected entities. The ecological features of the project area had not been considered at all. That is, the ecological changes that might take place if any of these drainage plans would be implemented had not been given any consideration. The aquatic life cycles had been neglected and organic production and bio-diversity have been ignored. For, once the project is implemented, the project area would be changed into a one-way sweet water eco-zone from the current brackish tidal flow region. The whole area will thus turn into a controlled, drained off area. The land subsidence will not be compensated. The ‘project life’ will be maximum ‘25/30 years’. 2. Review of Activities Activities employed by KJDRP revealed the following limitations :
    1. There had not been a proper investigation at the feasibility phase. Although studies had been made for Haskoning, Halcrow, PWB, KJDRP plans and proposals, these had proved to be inadequate.
    2. The project area had not been identified properly, necessitating a subsequent enlargement. The proposal to construct sluicegates at Ghangrail, 30 km downstream of the project area indicated that the main problem had not been properly understood.
    3. There was no coordinating forum among the four constituent bodies of KJDRP. (Component A, B, C & D)
    4. The voluntary organizations were not being included properly : ADAB was being side-tracked (although ADAB is the main coordinating agency for NGOs in Bangladesh).
    5. The project work was going on although the Master Plan was yet to be approved.
Emergency Action Plan

The activities conducted under the emergency action plan so far have yielded some positive results. The emergency action plan was prepared before the six year long KJDRP project as a "partial interim arrangement" to ameliorate the sufferings of the waterlogging of Beel Dakatia; and in 1994-95, it was to "remove water-logging of Bhabadaha area on an urgent basis" by freeing Beel Dakatia unit, including Paira beel, Ruiar beel, Damukhali beel from water-logging. According to the implementation report "the overall progress of emergency action plan was 87%." The main success that the action plan claims is the drainage of Beel Dakatia. The process through which Beel Dakatia was drained off was by filling up the places where people had breached the embankment and channeling all the water through the Sholmari river, which was dredged to attain the desired navigability. The repair of the breached spots of the embankment has resulted in the silting up of Hamkura river. This, in turn, has resulted in water-logging of the adjacent beels (in some cases for the whole year). Consequently, people of 35 villages were faced with unimaginable hardship (In 1997-98).

After the dredging was stopped. The Sholmari river began to silt up, although the entire drainage of Beel Dakatia depends on regular dredging of the Sholmari river.

For solving the water-logging problem caused by the Bhabadaha sluice gates, a cross dam was erected on the river Bhadra for dredging up the river. This activity has resulted in an increasing rate of siltation in front of the Bhabadaha sluice gates (about 2 metres). Rainfall during the middle of '97 caused water-logging in large part of Abhoynagar. Monirampur, Keshabpur and Dumuria thanas.

All the attempts taken so far by Bangladesh Water Development Board to remove water-logging on emergency basis have turned into failure. What it means in reality is that the implementation of the action plan has not only failed to alleviate people's suffering, it has created new problems of water-logging, and silting up of rivers. This only substantiates apprehension and misgivings about KJDRP.

3. The effectiveness of the above drainage plans

In all the proposed drainage plans of KJDRP the total water logged area was divided into two zones:

a) South east zone - Beel Dakatia

b) North west zone - Jessore Zone.

A. Beel Dakatia Drainage Plan

A drainage plan was prepared by Huskoning (in 1993) at the time of the preparation of the second coastal embankment project. "The planners believe that in the main project plan, the effectiveness of the drainage plan of Beel Dakatia at the south-east part of the project, polder no. 28 and possibly polder no. 27, is satisfactory".

According to authority the expectation that the plan would be successful arose from the following logic.

Lower Sholmari-Shalta river are quite deep. It was expected that these river will maintain their navigability in the next 30/35 years. The water level of the river during the ebb tide would remain lower than the level of Beel Dakatia. Attempts would be made to keep the difference at one metre. In order to maintain this difference in the water levels of Beel Dakatia and the Shalta river, Sholmari would be channeled into one direction, and a 10 vent regulator would be constructed. The 12 sluice gates on both sides of the Sholmari river would be closed, and a 7 vent regulator at Tiabunia on the Shalta river, and a 10 vent regulator at Ramdia on the lower Sholmari river would be constructed. The water of polder 27 would be drained through Tiabunia regulator and the water of polder 28 would be drained through Ramdia regular. The Hamkura river would be allowed to die in order to keep the navigability of the Sholmari. A canal would be dug up to Tiabunia to carry the water of the drainage area (of polder 27/1) now dependent on the Hamkura to the Shalta river for drainage.


The effectiveness of this drainage plan depends entirely on the navigability of the lower Shalta river. The planners have proposed to maintain this navigability through constant dredging. However, if dredging cannot be done for some reason, the whole plan would be jeopardized and a much larger area would become waterlogged.

B. Review of the plans for the drainage of Jessore

KJDRP authority had developed some alternative plans to drain the waterlogging of this part. The main concept of these drainage plans was to construct some regulators in the down stream part of the project area. Probable effect of these plans in the context of Region

In the context of the western part of south-west coastal region, the probable effects of those drainage plans would be quite extensive. If this plan is implemented, the flow of rivers upstream of the regulators will come down to a trickle, and the rivers will silt up to become narrow canals. That will lead to silt accumulation downstream of the regulators, and create fresh water-logging. To solve the water-logging problem, and maintain the continuity of these plans, embankments will have to be built at the confluence of the rivers and the sea, so that tidal flow from the seas do not cross into the land. As a consequence of these plans of BWDB, flow of water from the rivers to the canals and beels has stopped. At first they tried to seal off the rivers. The next step might be to stop tidal flows from the sea altogether. If KJDRP is implemented in that form, the following areas will witness adverse effect:-

A. Inside the project area

A.1. Rivers will lose their flow and eventually dry up.

A.2. With the loss of alluvial supply, the land subsidence will be impossible to balance.

A.3. Without the accumulation of alluvial, agricultural lands will lose their natural fertility, affecting agricultural production.

A.4. The entire area inside the polder will turn into a sweet water region from a brackish or slightly saline water region, which will trigger an ecological crisis. Bio-diversity will be seriously upset, and it would be beyond our means to restore the balance.

B. Outside the project area B.1. The rivers outside the polders will be silted up, resulting in the loss of their navigability.

B.2. Thirty thousand hectares of land will come under fresh water-logging. To remove this new water-logging, large polders will have to be built. At one stage, there will be no alternative but to construct polders along the sea coast. This will seriously undermine bio-diversity and pose a threat for the Sundarbans.

B.3. Different species of marine creatures spend at least a part of their life-cycle at the coastal estuaries. The proposed regulators will jeopardize the life cycle of these creatures.

C. Negative effects on the Sundarbans The Sundarbans is an important feature of our coastal topography. We cannot take any steps that could harm the forest, but the proposed projects of KJDRP would seriously endanger the ecology of the forest, water-logging of newer areas and the silting up of rivers will give rise to the following problems :-

C.1. The accumulation of alluvial will elevate many areas in the Sundarbans, which will obstruct the tidal operations and endanger the mangrove forests.

C.2. Salinity will increase.

C.3. Leaves that fall from the trees supply nutrients to the water which is a food source to the sea creatures. Increasing number of polders will hamper the supply of this organic nutrient.

An Asian Development Bank financed 60 million dollar project (The Sundarban Bio-diversity Conservation Project) is being prepared to develop the environment of the Sundarbans. But KJDRP's proposed project, with serious consequence for the forest, will diminish that possibility. The donor agency (ADB) will have to realize that while a project to protect the Sundarbans is being implemented with its funding, another project which it is financing will cause irreparable damages to the environment and ecology of the region.

  1. Negative effects on the estuaries
The importance of the deep tidal rivers in the coastal region can be compared with that of the arteries and veins of the human body. These deep rivers (estuaries) play a significant role in protecting the environmental characteristics of the coastal region. They provide a natural habitat for many species of sea fish, and other sea species which spend a part of their life cycle in these deep waters. An important source of food that sustains this marine life are the organic nutrients coming from the Sundarbans. Besides, these estuary rivers play a vital role in the process of land formation through alluvial accumulation, and in increasing the fertility of agricultural land. Scientific research has shown that the coastal region is very fertile, but it is also very sensitive. This should form the basis of any development plan for the region. But those proposed drainage plans of KJDRP would gradually lead to a disruption and destruction of this fragile ecology, by raising the level of land inside the Sundarbans, increasing salinity and obstructing the natural flow of the estuary rivers,. Eventually, the availability of marine fish and aquatic species will dwindle, some species will be threatened with extinction, and the availability of food that sustains marine life will be impaired. The proposed drainage plans of KJDRP will cause grave natural disasters by endangering the ecology and environment of the coastal region.

The above drainage plans were abandoned in the face of peoples resistance and due advocacy of NGO's. Later on new drainage plan was taken up on the basis of the study of EGIS.

Advocacy of the NGOs


When KJDRP presented Huskoning plan for drainage of waterlogged areas of the region. NGOs under the initiative of Uttaran began taking an active part to review the plan. The development organizations opposed this proposal and demanded that people's participation in all stages of the project - from preparing drainage plans to their implementation - be guaranteed, and that drainage plans should be ecologically sound. ADAB, the national coordinating body of NGOs, and the Coalition of Environment NGOs (CEN) performed leading role in the campaign. On this perspective KJDRP – B component (Engineering component) gradually changed their drainage plans.

Continuous efforts by the NGOs coupled with their mass-awareness and advocacy campaigns led to the suspension of the drainage implementation programme (in April 1997), by the donor agency ADB, subject to environment and social impact studies(EAI & SIA), and scrutiny of their findings. The NGOs continued both their mass-awareness campaign to resist the environmentally disastrous drainage plans of KJDRP and their efforts to evolve an alternative drainage plan consistent with eco-technological approach. This drainage plan has been based on the opinions and experience of the local people.

Points to be considred to develop Policy of Advocacy

Following points have been considered to develop an appropriate policy of advocacy to mobilize people on proposed drainage plans of KJDRP and compile Alternative People’s Plan based on TRM concept and lobby to the Government and funding agency (ADB).

Strengths and Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threat:


  1. In general, people are against solely engineer-driven solutions to waterlogging.
  2. People's organizations have emerged in order to solve the problems. They are aware of the need for environment-friendly approaches.
  3. The local NGOs have organized themselves into a NGO Network, and have risen against structural solutions.
  4. National and sectoral level networks have been formed against the proposed KJDRP.
  1. Some of the local vested interest groups (especially would be contractors) are working in favour of the project.
  2. Some NGOs have joined the project and the funder and the KJDRP are using them against the movement of the people.
  1. No Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or Social Impact Assessment (SIA) by the KJDRP has been implemented. The donors generally do not fund a project without making the above assessments.
  2. The environmentalists and journalists of the country are against the implementation of KJDRP in its present form.
  3. Some of the experts of the Ministry of The Environment and Forest are opposed to this project.
  4. There is a global movement against large dam constructions and similar structural solutions.
  1. The 'Establishment' - especially the bureaucrats, engineers and their contractors, who are associated with the project, which gives them the opportunity to make great financial gains.
  2. International Groups of consultants are strongly interested in the project, as they too can benefit financially by supporting any project for or against the people's interests.
Level of Advocacy

This project is supported by international funding agencies, and international consultant groups are working with them. The advocacy campaign should target the grassroots level (affected communities of 3 districts), the national level (Water Development Board, Water Resource Ministry, Environment Ministry, Fisheries Ministry) and the international level (ADB).

Strategy for the Advocacy Campaign

The following strategies have already been completed:

A. Media Campaign

  1. A book titled 'In quest of Development Approach for South West Coastal Region' has been published to influence the policy makers at national and international levels.
  2. Newspaper cuttings on 'Waterlogging' issues have been accumulated for the last three years, which have been compiled to influence the policy makers as above.
  3. A monthly Newsletter named 'Upakul Barta' (Coastal Newsletter) is being published for the opinion leaders (Union Parishad Chairmen, School Teachers, political leaders etc.) and policy makers to enhance their knowledge on waterlogging.
  4. Orientation course on waterlogging and other problems of the coastal wetland have been imparted to the journalists of Khulna, Satkhira, Keshabpur and Tala Press Club. This has been done so that they can present the news in the newspapers correctly and effectively.
  5. A TV film was produced on waterlogging and the impact of the Coastal Embankment Project (CEP) and was shown in Diganta (a development programme of Bangladesh Television).
B. Grassroots Mobilization
  1. A regional network of small organizations has been developed known as the SANJOG – A NGO network of South West Coastal Region.
  2. Group discussions, workshops, seminars have taken place with the members in the organized groups and a leadership cadre has been developed in each.
  3. A Cultural Group has been organized jointly with Gana Sangskritic Kendra through which different plays are being staged on environmental and specifically waterlogging issues.
  4. Issue based/ regional based People’s committee have been developed spontaneously. Such as –
‘Action committee for the re-excavation of the Hamkura River’.

‘People’s Committee for implementing TRM.'

‘People’s Action Committee to save the Upper Bhadra River’.

The Water Committee has developed a strong relationship with such groups and have endeavoured to empower them though workshops, seminars and information dissemination.

C. National level alliance building: Alliance has been made with ADAB and also with CEN. They have undertaken the waterlogging issue as one of their advocacy programme components.

Proshika – MUK has taken the leading role to mobilize national and internaional level coordination.

D. Persuasion: The targets for persuasion have been identified as: The main role players for the implementation of this project are the funding agency (ADB) and the implementers (Water Development Board) who need to be influenced. These are the agencies who can implement the project in an environment-friendly way. Outline of Alternative People's plan

As a component o Advocacy the people and NGO's involved in this process have developed an out line of Alternative People's plan based on TRM concept.

The total waterlogged area within KJDRP depends on the drainage capacity of 4 river systems. These are –

  1. Solmari River.
  2. Hamkura River
  3. Hari River – Shree – Mukteshwari
  4. Upper Bhadra – Harihar – Buri Bhadra
These river systems should be deepened through TRM process. Tidal basin should be constructed in the appropriate beels within polders in each river system. Implementation Strategy

Before preparing a large-scale project plan for any area, it is important that one experimental project plan be prepared in the light of the concept and guidelines discussed above.

Such an experimental project plan will not only act as a basis for the implementation of the larger project and allow project planners to take note of observations and experiences gathered, but will also encourage people's participation in the entire process.

Action Sequence

  1. To conduct full-scale investigations to find out the causes of waterlogging, its depth, extent and direction of the waterlogging and select the probable suitable beels for tidal basin chronologically.
  2. In selected beels of tidal basins the owners of waterlogged land should be organized to prepare a plan of action for their rehabilitation and livelihood.
  3. To prepare experimental tidal basin and implement it with people’s participation.
  4. To prepare an overall plan on the basis of review.
Positive aspects of the alternative plan

The outline of the alternative proposal will be based on the ecological and environmental characteristics of the coastal region and will combine people's experience with the knowledge of the experts. The success of the project will come from the involvement of people of all social and economic classes in the preparation and implementation of the project. People will take part in decision making and implementation process for such activities as selecting the sites at which the polders will be breached, selecting the sites for opening the polders, ensuring alluvial deposits in a planned manner, selecting the sites for constructing embankments around villages etc.

The project, when fully implemented, will deepen the estuaries, extend flood plains compensate for the sinking of land, raise the level of wet lands, and dissolve and remove the accumulated salt from croplands. The project will not interrupt the life-cycle of marine creatures or affect the bio-diversity of the region.

This plan is very much cost effective. To implement the proposed regulator based drainage plans, it is estimated that 62 million US dollars will be needed. But for implementing TRM based proposal, per year only 20 million Taka will be necessary for maintenance. This concept has no negative impact, but will keep the rivers alive for next century.

Gradual development of Advocacy level : Chronology of Activities.

When the KJDRP commenced its drainage plan in 1995, the local people got together with NGO's and started reviewing the project.

In July, 1996, ADAB the apex body of NGO's submitted memorandum titled 'Some Urgent recommendations to the Hon'ble Minister for Water Resources Mr. Abdur Razzaque.

Along with the memorandum, ADAB also submitted report on the waterlogging of this area to the minister. On August 24, 1996, ADAB, Khulna Chapter, invited all the local NGOs to participate in a Seminar to discuss the problems and possibilities of the Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project. On September 01, 1996, the Deputy Team Leader of the A-Component of the KJDRP, Mr. Khandakar Mahmudur Rahman, in reply to the letter submitted by the NGO's, sent a letter with two proposals in reply. The two proposals were on (1) All possible means and methods of drainage and (2) A proposal for selection of NGOs for help in Rehabilitation and Development.

After receiving these two proposals, the member NGOs of the Khulna and Jessore chapters arranged three meetings. On the basis of these three meetings, an alternative statement was prepared under the title, "A Statement of the stand taken by the NGOs and other people's organizations in the region regarding the disaster created by the siltation of rivers caused by the polder system and on the proposals contained in the Khulna - Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project". On the basis of this statement, a revised proposal for Drainage and Rehabilitation of the waterlogged areas was prepared, taking into consideration the special topographic and morphological characteristics of the region. This proposal was passed by the 22 representatives of local NGOs and CBOs who were present at the meeting held on September, 1996.

On September 9, 1996, a meeting of NGOs working in the waterlogged areas was held under the aegis of CARITAS, Khulna. In that meeting attended also by representatives of the KJDRP and the WDB / Asian Development Bank, a sketch was submitted regarding the participation of NGOs in the Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project.

In reply to the alternative proposal of the NGOs, the KJDRP authorities not only rejected that, but on October 5, 1996, they issued advertisement calling for tenders for the participation of NGOs in the project.

Taking into consideration all the factors, ADAB requested its member organizations not to participate in the tender. On November 24, 1996, in a meeting held at the ADAB auditorium, Dhaka, the participating NGOs unanimously agreed to the following decisions:-

'1. The existing Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project, if implemented as it is, will further degrade the environment. The Project proposal must be amended to suit the environment of the concerned region.
  1. No provision has been made in the project for participation of the affected people of the region. The project must be amended to ensure the active participation of the people.
  2. An alternative project proposal must be prepared within January, 1997, in consultation with all the NGOs and CBOs working in the region, whether they be members of ADAB, Khulna or Jessore chapters, or not. Any alternative proposal so submitted, must be on the basis of prior assessment, by an independent study approved by the Government and ADAB.
  3. The participation of NGOs in any such project must be through co-ordination by ADAB.
  4. The implementation project proposal in its present form must be suspended until a viable alternative acceptable to all concerned is approved.'
In order to implement the requirements of proposal No. (3) above, a Task force would be formed by the Khulna and Jessore chapters of ADAB on the basis of unanimity. This Task Force would consider the views and opinions of the people by means of several participatory Rural Appraisals (PRA), on the basis of which the revised or alternative project proposal would be made.

In accordance with No.4 proposal made above, in addition to all the member NGOs of the Khulna and Jessore chapters of ADAB, all other development organizations actively working in the area must also be included.'

During December 1996 and January and February, 1997, the following steps were taken to review the KJDRP :-

a) creating awareness among the people, and

b) holding meetings of concerned voluntary development organizations.

ÿ On December 12, 1996, the Directorate of Land and Water use of BWDB organized a meeting of the NGOs for enlistment of the NGOs in the Khulna Jessore Drainage and Rehabilitation Project. Though Uttaran, Bhumija, Prabhati had not applied for enlistment in KJDRP, they participated on the invitation of ADAB. The purpose of the Directorate in calling this meeting at the ‘Component A’ office of KJDRP to implement the Project in its original shape. But such environment-conscious NGOs like Uttaran, Bhumija, Prabhati etc. submitted an alternative proposal in the meeting. On behalf of participating NGOs, Prodipan also submitted an alternative proposal. As a result of these alternative proposals, the original intention of the government department was upset. ÿ Meeting to form a Task Force on KJDRP :- * On 26-12-1996, a meeting was organized at the BMA auditorium in Khulna to exchange views on KJDRP. Among others, the representatives of non-ADAB NGOs within the KJDRP were also present. At the invitation of the chair, the representatives actively participated in the discussions.

ÿ On February 13, 1997, a letter was sent to the Governor of ADB, which is the funding agency for the project. In the letter, the ADB was informed of the possible negative consequences that would arise if the project was implemented in its existing shape. In that letter ADAB pointed out the following points :-

  1. An Independent Multi-dimensional Committee was formed for the purpose of conducting an impartial comparative study of the original Khulna Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project prepared by the Water Development Board and the alternative concept proposals submitted by the NGOs.
  2. To actively include all the NGOs working in the area as well as their co-ordinating body ADAB, in all phases of the project from its conception to the last stage of implementation in accordance with the principles of the ADB.
  3. In accordance with the principles of the Asian Development Bank, implementation of any phase or stage of the project shall not commence before its Environmental impact assessment and Social Impact assessment is conducted.
  4. All work of the KJDRP will be suspended until all the above recommendations have been fulfilled.
ÿ In reply to the above letter, the Asian Development Bank replied, vide its letter dated March 31, 1997, that the ADB will seriously take into consideration all the factors and recommendations brought to its notice by the NGOs and ADAB, and that a meeting will soon be called to consider the same.

ÿ On the basis of the above, in a meeting between ADAB and the Asian Development Bank at the ADAB central office in Dhaka, the following decisions were agreed upon on April 21, 1997.

    1. A team of specialists nominated by the ADB will study the Environmental Impact of the Project. Representatives of ADAB will assist in preparing the Terms of Reference for such a study.
    2. Until the above study is completed, all the works on the project will remain suspended.
    3. During this period, only the re-excavation work of Hari river will continue, and in the Bhabadaha region, the running programmes of the NGOs for mitigating the waterlogging will be coordinated with the Government work in this regard.
Later, it has been reported that because the Water Development Board was not willing to agree to the proposals made by the donor ADB, the latter has suspended funding for the project. In the meantime the situation became worse in the water logged areas. WDB failed to excavate the natural drainage channels. Actually none of the activities mentioned in the Emergency Action Plan was only not successful, the sufferings of the people increased.
    1. The manual re-excavation work was divided into 50 parts, and the 50 groups that undertook the work did not have any co-ordination, as a result of which, the excavated depth was not uniform in the whole length.
    2. Even after re-excavation, it was seen that the bed of the river was still higher than the Beels from which it would have to drain the water.
    3. The earth, which had been dug out to excavate the river, has been stacked on the river bank. The very first rains would bring it all back to the river-bed.
    4. About 8'-0" to 10'-0" high siltation had occurred below the cross-dam. As such it was apprehended in the very beginning, as to whether the Hari river would ever become navigable even after removal of the cross dam. Later this apprehension proved correct. Even after removal of the cross dam on July 10, 1997, the Hari river did not become navigable.
As a result of that failure of the WDB, it was being apprehended that 27 Beels including the Khuksia Beel, Katakhali Beel, Jialdaha Beel, Karer Beel, Ashanagar etc. would remain water-logged. The catchment area of these 27 beels amount to 39,557 acres in which 47 villages are situated. The water from these 27 beels used to flow down through the Dyerkhali sluice Gate, but as a result of the siltation of the Hari river bed up to a height of 6'-7', this drainage route became closed. As a result, all these 27 beels and their adjacent villages are certain to be affected by waterlogging. Advocacy campaign after recommendation of EGIS:

Forced by the people's movement and relentless advocacy of the environmentally conscious NGOs led by ADAB and CEN, KJDRP authority had been constrained to change their proposed drainage plans. The consultant engineers of B component of KJDRP, formulated an all out development plan dividing the project areas in two distinct sections -

a) South-east part.

b) North-west part.

A) South-east part:

This section consists of three polders No. 25, 27 and 28. Beel Dakatia and tidal basin of the upper Sholmari river, covering 27% of the entire project area lying in this region. The implementation of the project in this region had already started since 1996-97 financial year.

The project includes construction of three large regulators, one in Ramdia with 9 vents, one in the Sholmari river with 10 vents and another in Tiabunia with 7 vents. Besides all these, construction of cross dam in the Sholmari river, dredging of the Upper Sholmari river for the last time and re-excavation of the Shalta and the Bhadra river are also included in the project component.

The people of Beel Dakatia region particularly of Dumuria thana are actively against the construction of these regulators.

A sense of apprehension has led them to oppose the project on the following grounds -

For Sholmari Regulator

    1. This will permanently obstruct natural land formation process siltation within Beel Dakatia and hinder process of compensation for natural earth subsidence.
    2. It is said in the project documents that, water level outside regulators will be lower than maintained inside, but the reality will be just the reverse. The physical observation made at newly built regulator of Singair Beel confirms the fact that, the water draining out for only four hours a day is not enough for complete draining out of water from the project area.
    3. The lower Sholmari and the Salta Rivers will be silted up quickly.
    4. The project is absolutely dependent on dredging for prevention of riverbed siltation. This sort of attempt to maintain navigability of the Hari river, through dredging in front of the regulator completely failed previously.
    5. The process may be effective for a short time but not a permanent solution. Ultimately the process will prove ineffective and more areas will be engulfed by water logging.
For Tiabunia Regulator

The faith in the new plans among the people of polder 27 is little. The people believe that the water of 27/1 polder cannot drain through the new big regulator and request that the still operational drainage system through the Upper Shomari River should be maintained. Becuase of the complete siltation of the Hamkura River the western part of polder 27 cannot use the existing drainage system anymore and the people want a solution for their problems. The general preference is TRM and reviving the Hamkura River; so the former drainage system can also be used again instead of the new drainage channel. The main channel costs too much loss of land as well, so generally the plans for polder 27 are objected to. Especially the people of the southern part don’t want those on big main channel, the eastern part want to drain on the Upper Sholmari River and those on the western part want to revive the Hamkura River so TRM can also be possible.

If a significant part of polder 27 (especially 27/1) is drained otherwise (through the Hamkura river), main channel and regulator could be designed smaller, so that less land will be needed.

For the Hamkura River

The people have demanded re-excavation or dredging of the river Hamkura. In this context their demands are as follows: -

    1. The construction of Shoilmari, Ramdia and Tiabunia regulators must be immediately stopped, and canceling the present KJDRP drainage plan in Beel Dakatia region and taking up plans based on tidal process (TRM).
    2. The rivers Hamkura and the Bhadra should be dredged and connected to Beel Dakatia. The mouths of the regulators of the older canals of water logged Beels along both the banks of the rivers Hamkura / Bhadra / Shoilmari / and Hari, should be opened and connected with the river for regenerating tidal process and ensuring siltation deeper in the Beel areas.
To realize the above demands they are mobilizing mass movement.

North-west Part

This section consists of the western parts of the polders 24 & 25, covering an area of 733.70 almost 73% of the entire project area.

The rivers of this region are:

The Mukteswari - Teka - Hari river basin : It consists of 8 large Beels such as Kedaria, Kapalia, Paira, Barunia, Khukshia, Rudagara, Madhugram and Bhaina.

The Harihar - Upper Bhadra river basin : This basin contains some small and medium sized beels such as Pajia, Patra & Baruli etc.

‘According to KJDRP authority the major problem of this region is the congestion of regulators through siltation.’

KJDRP Proposals

‘To solve the above mentioned problem’ the following alternative recommendations have been made in their reports.

‘A. Tidal River Management (TRM)

B. 'The Kedaria Tidal Basin (KTB) This tidal river management option has been developed by the KJDRP. The concept of this option is very similar to the tidal basin option developed by CERP (II) (Haskoning, 1993). The main features of the proposal area: This option includes a new embankment, separating the tidal basin from the rest of the beel and acquisition of the area necessary for the purpose.' People's opinion on Kashimpur Regulator

KJDRP authority had proposed to build regulators on the Bhadra at Kashimpur The local people are also against this regulator.

The regulator to be constructed at Kashimpur, will ultimately result in silting up of the southern portion of the river, with consequent ecological disaster in a vast area.

Apprehended Negative Impact of Kashimpur Regulator

  1. New areas and human habitations will become water logged.
  2. Local system of production will crumble down. Particularly the production of vegetables, rice and other crops will be seriously affected due to scarcity of water.
  3. Disruption of water ways will threaten the existence of markets along the river banks, and will result in shrinkage of employment opportunity of the people dependent on the rivers for their livelihood.
  4. Traditional fish species will become scarce.
  5. It will create adverse impact on subsoil water level.
People’s Resistance

With the above perspective in view, a committee named, 'Kashimpur Regulator Construction Resistance Committee' has been formed consisting of peoples representatives, school and college teachers, NGO activists, Journalists and members of various professions of the affected areas under KJDRP Project.

ADB's latest position

An ADB mission visited Dhaka from 29 August to 1st September 1999 to discuss with The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) the latest stage of implementation of the KJDRP.

Based on the feed back of the project beneficiaries and suggestions received from the stakeholders the TRM option was studied by the Bank in greater detail in terms of both technical feasibility and environmental and social impact. They found that 'TRM approach is technically feasible and attractive from social and environmental points of view'. So the Bank decided to reformulate the project, taking into account the views of stakeholders, GOB and BWDB have accepted the TRM option (according to their understanding).

The work plan will include:

In the North-west part of the project area:

* The development of one temporary tidal basin (Beel Kedaria), while managing, improving and closing the existing basin in Beel Bhaina (which is reaching the end of its useful life).

In the South-east part of the project area:

* Ramdia and Shomari Regulators will be completed.

The proposed work plan will not include provision for – * Kashimpur regulator will not be constructed at present but could be considered after TRM has been properly tested, now construction of seasonal cross dam will be introduced.

* Tiabunia regulators will not be constructed for drainage of polders 27/1 and 27/2, existing sluices at Magurkhali & Khaira will be rehabilitated.

Present Status

According to the original plan of the KJDRP, the time limit for the program (1993-99) has already expired on 31st December, 1999.

The ADB has concluded an agreement with the GOB for extending the period. At present the work is at a stand-stills work will resume after disbursement of funds.

The NGOs and people's organizations are conducting advocacy campaigns to create awareness among the people and to organize them for implementing the Alternative People's Plan based on TRM.

The people believe that the situation has improved after acceptance of the Tidal Basin design.

Now the focal point of the Advocacy is to organise the people in favour of the Tidal Basin concept and to ensure the participation of the people in the decision making process at all stages.

Lessons learnt: People break the barriers

A number of lessons can be learnt from this Advocacy progress.

Still long way to travel

The abstract of this report, reflects the fact that time has not come to say the last word about final development of the NGOs advocacy for sustainable drainage plan of KJDRP though some victory has been achieved. The reality is that the KJDRP authority though ‘convinced’ on the TRM concept but no full scale investigation and data collection work has been done on the physical, environmental and other aspects of the coastal region. The redesigned plan yet to be started and after completion of the – three years successful working of the first tidal basin, the TRM concept will be implemented on the other part of the project area (within Jessore zone).

KJDRP authorities themselves have maintained that their so far previous proposed ‘drainage plan’s are not based on adequate investigation. That only raised doubts about the effectiveness of the drainage plans. The drainage programmes that have so far been implemented on an emergency basis have failed to attain their desired goal on the one hand, and created new waterlogging and river siltation problems on the other. The programmes have also failed to gain people's confidence. People have themselves taken a number of measures to solve the problem of waterlogging, and have registered their angry protests against many components of KJDRP's drainage plans that have failed to bring the environmental features into consideration. These plans have only replicated the rigid methodology of the earlier coastal embankment plans, especially their attitudinal aspects, and have attempted to solve the waterlogging problems. Environment conscious local NGO's and their apex body ADAB and CEN are implementing an advocacy programme on this issue. This is such an innovative advocacy programme, that it has no equal in Bangladesh. The advocacy programme has been started from the lowest grassroots level.

As a result of the People's movement and the advocacy programme of the NGO's, the KJDRP has been compelled not only to review the proposed drainage project, but also agreed on Tidal River Management concept, at least partly, although because of wrong decisions, many obstacles have been created in the process of implementing the programme. The people of Beel Dakatia are still engaged in their movement to stop the construction of regulators on the Sholmari river and to restore tidal flow in the region.

It is imperative to properly realize the uniqueness of the coastal environment and to identify the areas where investigation and research activities can be taken up.

The region has been subjected to different kinds of environmental imbalance and natural disasters ever since the implementation of "development" projects that are clearly at odds with the region's environmental characteristics, and are ecologically unsound.

No holistic attempt at investigation and research has been made to ascertain the negative impacts of river siltation, waterlogging, salinity and other disasters on the life of the people - especially women and children - and on their economic and family lives, on education, health, and hygiene. Yet, this is a task that cannot be neglected.

We must therefore take a correct approach towards the development of the coastal region. Isolated mechanical and technological approaches that have no consideration for the environment will necessarily fail to address the uniqueness and the problems of the coastal region. Only an eco-technological approach may bring about real development of the region.

The authority, who are entrusted by the people as policy makers and governors of the country, must be adaptable on advocacy campaign. They should develop their mental makeup that ‘ordinary people have the democratic right to say something about technical projects’ that may profoundly affect their lives and livelihoods.

People’s voice should be honored. But the reality is different and painful. NGOs’ advocacy had been not only been ignored, but has been misinterpreted. They are subjected to harassment and humiliation.

Based on our discussion so far, we may draw two important conclusions:

* The widespread application of the objective, technological knowledge of the west

is not fruitful in all cases.

* Development processes must ensure the involvement of the people.

Local people have been trying to take part in decision making processes. Foreign experts come and go but they have no stake in the environment in which they apply their ‘superior’ knowledge and skills. But the local people have. They have to stay there and survive. Any change in the environment profoundly affects local communities and the lives of the people. Therefore, if local communities have to achieve desired progress, they have to have more power in taking decisions. Abstract facts, data, and debates on different issues should be made simple, so that people can easily understand these issues, and realize their own roles in the development of their region, as well as the consequences that might follow, and what they should do in such eventualities.

All the organizations and agencies connected with the different stages of the development process have the responsibility to promote such a people-oriented approach.

The ongoing advocacy campaign reflects this truth.


  1. Brochure of KJDRP.
  2. Mitra, S., 1914, Jessore-Khulna Itihas (in Bengali) published by Dasgupta and Company Ptv. Ltd., 54/3, College Street, Calcutta-12 pp. 18-28.
  3. Islam, Nurul. The History of Khulna District.
  4. Coastal zone and its Management in Bangladesh - Reports compilation of Uttaran sponsored seminar - 1993.
  5. Aftabuzzaman, 1990. Environmental and socio-economic impacts of coastal embankment, presented at the seminar on Environmental and Policy Aspects of Shrimp Cultivation, Organized by Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, EARC, Dhaka, 28-29 August, 1990.
  6. Alam, M.K. Hasan, A.K.M.S., Khan, M.R., and Whitney, J.W. 1990. Geological Map o Bangladesh, Govt. of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, Geological Survey of Bangladesh.
  7. ANON, 1981, 1983-84, 1992, 1993, 1994. Statistical yearbook of Bangladesh, Statistics division, Ministry of Planning, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, pp. 17-20.
  8. Coleman, J.M. 1968. Brahmaputra River Channel Processes and Sedimentation: International Journal of Geotectonics and Geology and, Physics of the Interior of the Earth. V. 3. P. 132-145.
  9. Ekram Ali, R.M., Prospect of Tidal River Management (TRM) to solve waterlogging and drainage congestion Problems in the South Western Coastal Region of Bangladesh.
  10. Documents of Bangladesh Water Development Board.
  11. Dr. Rahman, Atiur - Beel Dakatia.
  12. Dr. Adnan, Swapon.
  13. Documents of KJDRP.
  14. EGIS, 1999. Environmental Management Plan for the Khulna Jessore Rehabilitation Project, Draft Report, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  15. Egglesman, R., 1982, Peatland polders of North-west Germany polders of the world, vol.-1, papers of international symposium, Oct., 1982. The Netherlands, pp. 48-57. 1994.
  16. FAP-4, 1993. Southwest Area Water Resources Management Project, Draft Final Report. Vol.1 Main Report, Sir William Halcrow & Partners Ltd. and Associates.
  17. SMEC, 1998. Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project, Detailed Engineering Design and Construction Supervision, Overall Drainage Plan Final Report Part-1.
  18. SMEC, 1998. Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project, Detailed Engineering Design and Construction Supervision, Overall Drainage Plan Final Report Part-2.
  19. Interview with local people.
  20. Interview with the organizer's of different People's Organization.
  21. Interview with Salim Akter Swapan.
  22. Interview with Gouronga Nandi - Journalist.
  23. Daily Newspapers.
  24. Documents of ADAB & CEN.
  25. Documents of ADB.
  26. Documents of KJDRP.
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