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© Copyright 2010 All rights reserved Integrated Publishing Association
Research article ISSN 0976 4402
 Received on September 2011 Published on November 2011
Economic activities decrease biodiversity in Hakaluki haor, the largestinland fresh water ecosystem in Bangladesh
Islam. M, Saha. N, Rahman. MDepartment of Forestry and Environmental Science, School of Agriculture and MineralSciences, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet-3114, Bangladeshmahmudafor@yahoo.com
A study was conducted to investigate the economic activities in Hakaluki haor and their impact on haor ecosystem. The study revealed that three categories of land are prevalent inHakaluki haor including
agricultural land 
(the deepest part of haor) and
(theouter portion of the haor) comprising 21%, 25% and 54% of the total land area of Hakalukihaor (18386ha) respectively. The socio-economic condition of surrounding people is poor.The mean annual household income was calculated to be Tk.81375 (Tk.70=1US Dollar)where agriculture is the main occupation of 36% households. Agriculture, grazing, andfishing are the main economic activities involving 74%, 93% and 65% householdsrespectively. Average annual income per household from fish capture, fish culture and fishtrading are Tk. 13570, Tk. 8716 and Tk. 30000 respectively and about half of the householdsare involved in fish capture. 91% of households think that over exploitation of resources andexisting management system are the main threats for Hakaluki haor. Consequently the naturalresources are being depleted day by day along with a considerable loss in biological diversity.A number of non-governmental organizations are working to improve the situation. Some of their initiatives are expected to favour the conservation programme. However, those effortsare not adequate to conserve haor resources. A review of the current management policy anddevelopment of a comprehensive and sustainable management strategy are urgent need to protect the natural resources form further degradation.
Wetland; Economic activities; Beel; Threats; Degradation, Biodiversity
1. Introduction
 Wetlands are of great ecological importance and are probably the most important zone for inland freshwater fisheries as they support a large invertebrate fauna, act as a feeding groundfor young and growing fish and provide refugia against predators (Denny, 1985; Balirwa,1998). Wetlands are broadly defined as the interface between terrestrial and aquaticecosystems (Mitsch and Gosselink, 2000) where floodplain is a broad term used to refer toone or more wetland types (Ramsar Classification System for Wetland Type, 1971).The floodplains of Bangladesh are amongst the world’s most important wetlands and arehome to hundreds of species of fish, plants, birds and other wildlife. In Bangladesh aboutfour million hectares of land are inundated every year in the monsoon (rainy) season, andover half the country is under water in an exceptional flood year (Ali, 1997). In the dryseason, the wetlands reduce in size to form a system of rivers, beels (depressions and lakesthat hold water permanently or seasonally), and baors (oxbow lakes).
 Economic activities decrease biodiversity in Hakaluki haor, the largest inland fresh water ecosystem in Bangladesh
 Islam. M, Saha. N, Rahman. M 
 International Journal of Environmental Sciences Volume 2 No.2, 2011
947The wetlands provide the habitat for over 260 fish species (Rahman, 1989) and hundreds of thousands of migrating birds (Bird Life International 2004), and nutrition for millions of households in rural Bangladesh, particularly the poor. As many as 80% of rural householdscatch fish for food or to sell ( Minkin
et al 
., 1997; Thompson et al., 1999; FAP 16, 1995,)and about 60% of animal protein consumption comes from fish (BBS, 1999). In addition, poor and marginal households catch many small fish that are not included in official statisticsor policies, and use aquatic plants and animals for food or as feed for livestock. 200-300 plant species in Bangladesh are judged to be wetland species and an estimated 200 wetland plant species occurs in haor region (Karim, 1993; NERP, 1993a; and BNH, 1997).Haors are floodplain lake and swamp systems, usually described as “bowl-shaped depression between the natural levees of a river, that are flooded every year by monsoon floods fromApril/May until October” (Nishat
et al 
.,1993). Haors remain inundated for several month of the year and draining after the monsoon. Some permanent water bodies, or beels, remain inthe deepest partsHakaluki haor is the country's largest inland freshwater wetland ecosystem, located in theFenchuganj and Golapganj upazila, sub-district) of Sylhet district, and also Baralekha, Juriand Kulaura upazila in the Moulvibazar district. The Haor is located in the north-east of Bangladesh between 24.35nN and 24.45N latitude and 92.00'E and 92.08E longitude with anarea of 18,386 ha (CNRS, 2002).There are more than 238 small, medium and large interconnecting beels, some of which are perennial and others seasonal. During the dry season, an area of approximately 4,400 ha iscovered by beels. However, with the onset of the rains in the summer, the entire area floodsto about four-and-a-half times of this size (18,386 ha) and remains under water for up to fivemonths. During this period, all the beels are united as one large lake, or haor, makingHakaluki haor the largest freshwater wetland in Bangladesh.Hakaluki haor once supported plentiful wildlife and aquatic resources and was covered withswamp forest. However, in the recent times this has become a fast-degraded landscape andfacing increased pressures and threats from different sources including over use of itsresurces by local people (Choudhury, 2005). About 200,000 people live around the haor andall of them, more or less, are dependent on the resources of the haor for their livelihoods. Onthe basis of such threats and rapid degradation of the resources and in recognition of theurgent need to protect the unique ecology and biodiversity of the haor, the Government of Bangladesh declared Hakaluki haor as an "Ecologically Critical Area" (ECA) in 1999 under the provisions of the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 1995 (BECA) (CNRS,2002).Though a number of projects have been being implemented by the government incollaboration with several non governmental organization (NGOs) in Hakaluki haor, the present studies indicate that their conservation efforts have not been appeared to be effectiveas overexploitation of resources has been occurred regularly in the haor by the local people.This study investigates the nature of livelihood dependence and its impacts on naturalresources and biodiversity.
2. Materials and Method
An exploratory survey was carried out on Hakaluki haor to investigate the linkage betweenlocal people’s livelihoods and the resources of Hakaluki haor and their impacts on ecological
 Economic activities decrease biodiversity in Hakaluki haor, the largest inland fresh water ecosystem in Bangladesh
 Islam. M, Saha. N, Rahman. M 
 International Journal of Environmental Sciences Volume 2 No.2, 2011
948functioning of the haor system. There are a number of haor in Bangladesh. The major twohaors in Bangladesh named Tanguar haor and Hakaluki haor situated in the greater Sylhetdivision, the northeastern border of Bangladesh. Hakaluki haor was selected purposively because it is highly degraded. Hakaluki haor is administrated under five Upazilas. Golapgonjand Fenchugong under Sylhet district and Juri, Kulaura and Borolekha under Moulovibazar district. Fenchugonj upazila (From Sylhet district) and Bhorlekhea upazila (fromMoulovibazar district) were selected randomly as survey sites. Two villages from each of these two upazila were then selected randomly. Then simple random sampling was followedto select the individual respondents from each village with a minimum sampling intensity of 10% (80 households, 20 from each villages).An orientation visit to the selected area was made before starting the fieldwork. At this stage,the researchers held informal discussions with the leading persons of the village and formaldiscussion with the administrative authority of the upazilla was made. Face-to-face interviewswith selected families were used to gather primary data using a pre-prepared, semi-structuredquestionnaire. Targeted farmers were interviewed in their households and occasionally in thehaor. To supplement these data, information was also collected from different secondarysources viz. books, journal articles, brochures, thesis papers, research paper, websites. After collecting required data, they were compiled and processed by using calculator, MS word andMS Excel computer program.
3. Results and discussion3.1. Present management system of haor resources
Hakaluki haor provides rich natural resources. Property rights to this land are subject to claimfrom different levels of both government and private individuals. As a result the presentmanagement system is very complex in Hakaluki haor. The land of Hakaluki haor can beclassified into three distinct categories: (1) agricultural land; (2) beel: and (3) kanda. Landmanagement is also diverse. The area of agricultural land is 3,869 ha comprising 21% of thetotal area of Hakaluki haor where as the area of the beels in Hakaluki haor is 4,635 hacomprising 25% of the total area. The remaining 54% of Hakaluki haor designated as kandacovering an area of 9882 ha. Agricultural land is privately owned property and operated bythe landowner. About 31% of households have their own cropland in Hakaluki haor.Landowners do not cultivate always their agricultural land themselves; the land instead isfrequently leased to landless people. Only 33% land owners cultivate their land themselvesand the remaining 67% land owner leased their land to the land less farmers with a definitesharing agreement where the land owner and the farmer get 50:50 share of the crops providedthat all the cost of production have to be incurred by the lease holder. The land less farmersdepends to a great extent on these lands for their livelihood.
The beels (the deepest part of haor) are classified as
land. The beels are managed byfollowing the traditional ‘leasing system’, leased to the fishermen group for three years with provision for renewals. For this period of lease the lease holders manage the beel as their own property while government only regulates operations through its district administration.Though only the fishermen have the right to get leased the beels, due to lack of leasingmoney the elite person take these opportunity by the name of fishermen. It is revealed fromthe study that almost cent percent (96%) of the fishermen have no ability to access the presentleasing system due to lack of leasing money. The fishermen work in these leased beel as aday laborer only.

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