Unique programme in Bangladesh shows the way to wetland management

The project to conserve the biodiversity of the Tanguar Haor in northeastern Bangladesh has brought rewards

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 27 March 2018

The Tanguar Haor in Sunamganj, Northeastern Bangladesh   Credit: WikimediaA programme to conserve the biodiversity of one of Bangladesh’s largest wetlands and ensuring the livelihood of people living around it is bearing fruit, a recent report has stated.

“Tanguar Hoar is a great example of how to create a co-management system of natural resource governance,” a paper, Management and Governance: System of Wetlands in Bangladesh: A Case Study on Co-Management of Tanguar Haor by Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad noted.

The paper was published in Wetlands in the Himalaya: Securing services for livelihoods, a report brought out by The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). ICIMOD is a regional knowledge development and learning centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalaya region and is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Wetlands of Bangladesh   Credit: ICIMODTanguar Haor covers an area of 9,727 ha and is located in the northeastern district of Sunamganj, close to the Indian border. Due to its designation as a Ramsar site in 2000, the Bangladesh Federal Ministry of Environment and Forest put in place a project titled “Community Based Sustainable Management of Tanguar Haor”. The project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, with technical support provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Bangladesh office providing technical support.

The paper notes that “the strength of the Tanguar Haor project lies in the sheer size of its governing body, which is necessary to adapt to unforeseen problems and build resilience for long-term wetland management.” Under the project, different institutions have been established with clear mandates, to ensure that people’s opinions are reflected in development initiatives.

Representatives from communities have been included in committees at all levels and a bottom-up approach has been followed in decision making, thus ensuring participation and transparency in all kinds of decision making. To ensure equity, engagement of women and other professionals have been guaranteed in all level of decision making. To share the benefit from fish harvesting, a benefit sharing mechanism has been established through consultation with community and other stakeholders where 40per cent of the money from fish sale goes to fishermen, 36 per cent goes to Central Co-management Committee (a community based committee) for the development of the community and 24per cent goes to government. Representatives from different committees are been selected through a democratic process where community people have chosen their representatives through election.

“This intricate governance structure has made major headway in the management of Tanguar Haor. The formation of committees at the village level encourages the participation of locals in the co-management of the Haor (waerbody),” the paper notes.

Communities living around the haor have accepted the traditional non-commercial fishing practices to secure their fishing rights and to ensure sustainable fish harvesting in this wetland for a specific period of the year. The income generating activities, which have reduced stress on the haor, include small businesses, agriculture, poultry, livestock and handicrafts. Among small businesses, men dominate the fishing and fishing boat related activities while women dominate the grocery shops. Moreover, various activities like plantation of native tree saplings to restore fish habitat and reed land, establishment of five fish and two bird sanctuaries have been carried out for the rehabilitation of the Tanguar Haor ecosystem. The district administration is providing political and operational support to Tanguar Haor through the Tanguar Haor Management Committee.

“The governance system is sound and will hopefully persist in the future to preserve one of Bangladesh’s most significant natural resources, a biodiversity hotspot for fish and birds,” the paper notes.

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