Improved early warning system, long-term farming plan, embankment construction and repair and alternative employment stressed
Establishment of manufacture plants to create alternative employment opportunity, assistance for women entrepreneurs and effective measures to prevent and control river erosion include the essential measures for the development of the people haor areas in the north and northeast of Bangladesh.
The speakers stressed these points at a presentation event on a research titled 'Lives and livelihood issues of haor dwellers' organised at the CIRDAP auditorium in the capital today on Wednesday (14 March 2018). Probal Saha, water resource management specialist of the Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research (C3ER), delivered the keynote presentation at the programme. The C3ER, a research body under BRAC University, carried out the research.
Water resources minister and lawmaker Anwar Hossain Manju attended the event as the chief guest, while state minister for finance and planning and lawmaker Muhammad Abdul Mannan was present as special guest. Moderated by BRAC Advocacy for Social Change programme's director KAM Morshed, the event was addressed by among others, senior secretary of water resources ministry Dr Zafar Ahmed Khan, Save the Children deputy country director Dr Ishtiaq Mannan, Integrated Development Programme's head Shyam Sundar and World Vision's humanitarian and emergency affairs director Dolon Josef Gomes.
C3ER conducted the study between 7 February and 15 March this year under the 'Flash flood recovery project'. BRAC, Save the Children and World Vision International are implementing the project with funding from the UKAID and managed by the UN office for the project services (UNOPS). The project was undertaken last year (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 upazlias of two districts which are: four communities of Tahirpur upazila and three communities of Dirai upazila, both under Sunamganj and two communities of Itna upazila of Kishoreganj district. The study followed mainly a qualitative methodology in which 126 community members and 9 (nine) representatives of the local government bodies took part.
The participants mostly emphasised creation of alternative employment opportunities as an urgent measure to tackle the crisis of lack of employment in the vast haor area. Their suggestions in this regard include establishment of manufacturing units and support to promote entrepreneurship among women through training and materials such as sewing machines. They also identified a faulty market management system as a major impediment for the farmers not being able to sell their farm produces.
The study recommendations include among others, low-interest bank loans for the haor dwellers, construction and repair of embankments, long-term planning to boost agricultural production, opening 'jolmohal' (water-bodies under government jurisdiction that are leased out for fish culture) for affected people during emergencies of flash floods and other natural disasters allowing them to catch fish, and technological improvement of early warning system in weather forecast.
The water resources minister, Anwar Hossain Manju, said at the programme, 'The haor areas are affected by a complicated set of problems that cannot be solved all in one go. To effectively address the problems they need to be prioritised. Since we have resource constraints, we cannot prevent erosion in all rivers, nor can we dredge all the rivers. However, under the guidance by the honourable prime minister we are giving special priority to river dredging.'
He further stressed collaborative effort, saying, 'We would have achieved GDP growth 10 times more if we could work in coordination at all levels, including districts and unions. And, if we could prevent "wastage", which however is termed "corruption" by many, there was GDP growth 2 times more.'
State minister for finance and planning Muhammad Abdul Mannan said, 'I have much doubt about the sustainability of the crop insurance in the haor area. It is because, an insurance means that the clients will have to pay the premiums. So we have to think more how realistic option the crop insurance would be 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. For this involving the local community is essential for effective infrastructure management in haor.'