Establishment of manufacture plants to create alternative employment opportunity, assistance for women entrepreneurs and effective measures to prevent and control river erosion are essential measures for the development of the haor areas in the north and northeast parts of Bangladesh, experts have said.
They stressed on these points at the presentation of a research titled “Lives and livelihood issues of haor dwellers” organized at the CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka on Wednesday.
Probal Saha, water resource management specialist of the Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research (C3ER), delivered the keynote presentation at the program. C3ER, a research body under Brac University, carried out the research.
Water Resources Minister Anwar Hossain Manju attended the event as the chief guest, while State Minister for Finance and Planning Muhammad Abdul Mannan were present as a special guest. Moderated by Brac Advocacy for Social Change program Director KAM Morshed, the event was addressed by, among others, Senior Secretary of the Water Resources Ministry Dr Zafar Ahmed Khan, Save the Children Deputy Country Director Dr Ishtiaq Mannan, Integrated Development Program head Shyam Sundar, and World Vision's Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Director Dolon Josef Gomes.
C3ER conducted the study between February 7 and March 15 this year under the name “Flash flood recovery project”. Brac, Save the Children, and World Vision International are implementing the project with funding from UKAID and management by the UN Office for the Project Services (UNOPS). The project was undertaken in 2017 in the context of flash flood in the vast haor areas, severely affecting the life and livelihood of the local community.
The study was conducted among nine communities in three upazilas of the districts of Sunamganj and Kishoreganj. The study mainly followed a qualitative methodology in which 126 community members and nine representatives of local governing bodies took part.
The participants mostly emphasized the creation of alternative employment opportunities as an urgent measure to tackle the crisis of the lack of employment in the vast haor area. Their suggestions in this regard include the establishment of manufacturing units and support to promote entrepreneurship among women through training and the supply of materials such as sewing machines. They also identified a faulty market management system as a major impediment for farmers who are not being able to sell their harvest.
The study recommendations include among others, low-interest bank loans for haor dwellers, construction and repair of embankments, long-term planning to boost agricultural production, opening “jolmohals” (water-bodies under government jurisdiction that are leased out for fish culture) for affected people during emergencies such as flash floods and other natural disasters allowing them to catch fish, and technological improvements such as early warning systems in weather forecasts.
Water Resources Minister Anwar Hossain Manju said: “The haor areas are affected by a complicated set of problems that cannot be solved all in one go. For the problems to be effectively addressed, they need to be prioritized. Since we have resource constraints, we can neither prevent erosion in all rivers, nor dredge them. However, under the guidance of the prime minister we are giving special priority to river dredging.”
He further stressed on a collaborative effort, saying: “We would have achieved a tenfold GDP growth if we could coordinate at all levels including districts and unions, and prevent wastage. Nevertheless, we have doubled the GDP.”
State Minister for Finance and Planning Muhammad Abdul Mannan said: “I have much doubt about the sustainability of crop insurance in the haor area. This is because insurance means that the clients will have to pay the premiums. Therefore, we have to think of more realistic options for crop insurance for the poor farmers of the haor.”
Dr Ishtiaq Mannan said: “Time is extremely valuable in haor livelihood management. Resource damage cannot be prevented unless we are able to take timely action. In light of this, involving the local community is essential for effective infrastructure management.”