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).
Important physiographic units are: Peat basins, Ganges tidal floodplain and floodplain.
i) Peat basins
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.
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
i) Experience of Beel Dakatia
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.
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:
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 sq.km.
Halcrow Plan -- 1306 sq.km.
BWDB Plan -- 1306 sq.km.
KJDRP-2 -- 1126 sq.km.
[120 sq.km. 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.
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
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.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.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.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.
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.
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:
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
‘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.
Proshika – MUK has taken the leading role to mobilize national and internaional level coordination.
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 –
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.
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:-
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 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 :-
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.
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:
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
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: -
This section consists of the western parts of the polders 24 & 25, covering an area of 733.70 sq.km. 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.’
‘To solve the above mentioned problem’ the following alternative recommendations have been made in their reports.
‘A. Tidal River Management (TRM)
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
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).
In the North-west part of the project area:
In the South-east part of the project area:
* Ramdia and Shomari Regulators will be completed.
* Tiabunia regulators will not be constructed
for drainage of polders 27/1 and 27/2, existing sluices at Magurkhali &
Khaira will be rehabilitated.
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.
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.