Tk 109 crore fish loss estimated
Wasim Bin Habib with Abu Ahmed, from Satkhira, The Daily Star, June 1, 2009
A shrimp farmer in Pratapnagar of Assasuni upazila in Satkhira tries to salvage his shrimp enclosures, which are inundated daily as seawater flows into the enclosures through embankment breaches made by cyclone Aila. Photo: Anisur Rahman
Thousands of shrimp and freshwater fish farmers in Satkhira suffered a setback as cyclone Aila washed away most of the shrimp enclosures and water bodies in the area.
At least 7,117 shrimp enclosures on 26,028 hectares of land in six unions were ravaged by fierce tidal surge on May 25 when Aila ripped through the country’s southwestern part.
Now many shrimp farmers who lost their homes and belongings in the cyclone have to shoulder the burden of huge loss.
The district fisheries office put the total loss of shrimp at Tk 93.21 crore and that of freshwater fish at Tk Tk 16.30.
Abdul Wadud, district fisheries officer-in-charge, told The Daily Star that about 2,707 tonnes of shrimp and 3,107 tonnes of freshwater fish were washed away by tidal surge that breached the embankments at many points.
“Shrimp fries worth around Tk 3.90 crore were washed away in the cyclone while the loss of shrimp and damage to shrimp enclosures has been estimated at Tk 93.21 crore and Tk 24.39 crore,” he said.
There are about 25,381 shrimp enclosures on 57,956.75 hectares of land in the district from where shrimp worth around Tk 12,000 crore are exported every year.
Wadud said the loss of freshwater fish has been estimated at Tk 16.30 crore as about 4,031 ponds on 428 hectares of land were washed away in the cyclone.
Shrimp is cultivated in six of the seven upazilas in the district. Of the 7,117 ravaged shrimp enclosures, 3,361 are in Shyamnagar upazila, 1,891 in Assasuni upazila, 1,450 in Kaliganj upazila, 250 in Tala upazila, 150 in Satkhira Sadar and 15 in Debhata upazila.
SM Nurul Alam, a shrimp cultivator and former chairman of Anulia union, told The Daily Star that he has to incur a huge loss as his seven shrimp enclosures on 1,300 bighas of land in the coastline of Gabura union were completely washed away by tidal surge.
“I have been farming shrimp and other fish worth around Tk 1 crore in my enclosures since January. But all were washed away by tidal surge,” he said.
“Now nothing is left except my house in Satkhira,” he claimed.
Nurul Alam said he sold shrimp and other fish worth around Tk 10-12 crore last year.
“I don’t know how long it will take to recover the loss,” he added.
Nurul Alam said tidal surge washed away his shrimp enclosures on around 250 bighas of land at Kalyanpur village under Pratapnagar union.
He said he took a loan of Tk 8 crore from Assasuni branch of Janata Bank for shrimp cultivation.
“I have paid Tk 18 lakh for leasing land and spent Tk 13 lakh on shrimp farming,” said the shrimp cultivator adding that had Aila not hit the district, he would have done a business of Tk 60-65 lakh.
Md Aktaruzzaman Mukul, a shareholder of several shrimp enclosures, said the cyclone damaged their shrimp enclosures on 180 bighas of land at Chakla village under Assassuni upazila.
He said they paid Tk 9 lakh for leasing lands and had been cultivating shrimp and freshwater fish by investing about Tk 5-7 lakh since January.
“Had Aila not ravaged the enclosures, we could have made a profit of Tk 5-6 lakh”, Mukul said.
“Natural disasters wreak havoc in the district almost every year but the damaged embankments need to be repaired immediately to protect it from widespread destruction,” he added.
The Daily Star, may 11, 2009
Defying a call from local lawmaker, goons hired by shrimp enclosure owners cut the dam of Chhoto Kainmari Canal in Mongla upazila to release saline water into the adjoining areas on Saturday.Photo: STAR
Farmers in Mongla upazila have vowed to resist shrimp cultivation by using saline water in croplands.
Hundreds of men and women of Kainmari, Chakrakhali, Kalibari, Dasherkhando and Kanainagar villages of Chandpai union continued movement for the second day yesterday and prevented shrimp enclosure owners from releasing saline water into the paddy fields through sluice gates.
Also on Saturday, hundreds of farmers of these villages foiled an attempt to release saline water into their fields with help of hired goons.
Meanwhile, security has have been stepped up at several villages of Chandpai union under Mongla upazila in Bagerhat district fearing bloody clashes any moment between farmers and owners of shrimp enclosures.
According to Vice Chairman of Mongla Upazila Parishad Mohammad Noor Alam, the owners of shrimp enclosures have hired goons to release saline water into the fields in the aforesaid villages defying the call by local lawmaker Begum Habibun Nahar to refrain from using force.
The hired goons on Saturday noon cut the dam of Kainmari Canal to forcibly release saline water into a field.
“The farmers have vowed to resist the hired goons. So the situation in these villages have become highly tense,” said OC Feroze Ahmed at Mongla Police Station.
Shubhash Mandol, Gurudas Dakua, Niva Halder and Alta Bagchi of Kalikabari village told this correspondent yesterday that release of saline water in the fields has become a big threat to their livelihood. Because it damages fertility of the fields, they pointed out.
Mongla Upazila Chairman Md Iddris Ali Ijardar said anti-salinity movement is gaining momentum as farmers are now more aware about the evils of saline water-based shrimp cultivation.
Meanwhile lawmaker Habibun Nahar warned that any ill motive against the greater interest of the people would be severely dealt with.
She said this as some owners were reportedly still planning to use force and dismantle the sluice gates with the help of hired goons.
Hundreds of villagers were guarding sluice gates and shrimp enclosures of Mongla villages since start of their current protest on Saturda
NewAge Xtra, April 24-30, 2009
Musfequr Rahman reveals the sufferings of residents of Dacope and Paikgacha upazila in Khulna, who are waging an ongoing war against Baghda cultivation, a serious ecological threat.
On December 25, 2008, around three thousand people of Ward 9 of Dacope upazila, Khulna chased the gang of Baghda shrimp enclosure (gher) owners when they tried to open the sluice gate to channel saltwater into the area at around 8:00pm.
According to witnesses, the group, lead by a certain Haq, included some infamous terrorists of the area like Musa, Perani Sheikh, Rekat Sheikh, Shafiq Aziz and others, travelling on around ten motorcycles.
Anil Krishna Sarkar (55), a homeopathy doctor and Sujit Ray of Kumarkhali village retells the story. On hearing their arrival, the men, the women, the old and even the children from Kamarkhola, Jainagar, Rajnagar, Fakirdanga, Vhitevanga, Parjainagar, Sairabad, Srinagar and Kalinagar wards of Dacope upazila united under the slogan ‘Lobon Pani Thekao, Haq Bahini Thekao’ (resist saltwater and Haq group), before chasing them away.
The villagers say that the act was an explosion of bottled-up frustration and anger that they had felt over the past 25 years as, according to them, most of Dacope, Paikgacha and other areas of Khulna have lost their soil fertility due to the unplanned cultivation of Baghda, the tiger shrimp species, that requires a high level of saltwater. ‘The Baghda cultivators, using their influence, have dominated these areas during this time of the year, every year. They have also forcefully occupied the arable lands of small owners, making farming and agriculture almost impossible for the less fortunate farmers of these areas,’ says Anil. He also informs, flanked by others, that the fisheries, livestock, water resources, poultry and the entire ecological system of these areas are currently threatened due to the unscrupulous activities of the Baghda cultivators of the area.
Shashanko Ray Sardar, a resident of the Kamarkhola Union of Dacope upazila while talking to Xtra says, ‘The arable lands have been heavily affected over the past few decades as Baghda cultivation requires extensive use of chemical fertiliser, pesticides and insecticides.’ He points out that the detail is crystal clear as, although yield was around 20 to 30 mounds of paddy per acre of land even during the early eighties, the yield has currently been reduced to around six to ten mounds per acre.
‘It’s all due to the increase of salinity in the soil,’ he adds.
Sabita Ray, a resident of the area points out that because to such circumstances the soil has become barren. ‘Even a decade back, we could easily support our livelihood through the vegetables we grew on our own lands here. However, now we can hardly grow anything in these soils. We basically have to rely on the imported vegetables which come from Khulna city,’ she informs.
She further adds that due to the absence of trees, the villagers also buy wood, for cooking, from other areas. ‘You will no longer find a single jackfruit, mango, lychee, coconut, date or similar trees in these areas. Only a few hapless trees like shech and gaoa, which can survive under extreme conditions, are now available,’ says Shanti Lata Bishwas of Aloke Dweep.
Abul Khaleq, another farmer, informs that the commercial cultivation of Baghda in saltwater totally destroyed the habitat for earthworms, which are the ‘natural farmers’. ‘This has gravely affected the agriculture in these areas as not a single earthworm was found in the past 20 years during cultivation,’ he says.
Even during the eighties, Khaleq had around 20 acres of farm land where he owned and grazed around 32 cows, a dozen goats, hens, ducks and pigeons. ‘As soon as shrimp cultivation began, the natural vegetation gradually died away. I lost most of the cattle to the lack of green grass and to contagious livestock diseases like diarrhoea caused by the presence of salt water. As soon as five of them died in a year, I sold some at a minimum price and the remainder were sent to my relatives residing in other parts of Khulna,’ he shares with Xtra.
Prior to Baghda cultivation, more than fifty species of sweet water fish were available in abundance in the ponds of these areas. However, as the shrimp cultivation drastically engulfed most areas, salt water from the enclosures permeated into the natural ponds – habitat for fishes like Rui, Katla, Mrigal, Puti, Boyal, Catfish, Singmach, Swal, Koimach, sweet water Bhetki, sweet water Paisha and others.
‘These are mostly extinct now. Only Baghda shrimp, salt water Paisha and salt water Vhetki are available here at present,’ says Bishnu Pada Mondal, branch post master, Aloke Dweep village, Deluty union, Paikgacha upazila, Khulna.
Most locals have to walk miles to find tube wells as most of the pond water currently available, is impure. ‘We usually fetch our water from Ranushaber tube-well, the only remaining source of drinking water in the area, three to five kilometres away, from our homes. The pond, which was our only source of drinking water, is no longer pure as salt water has permeated into it. Drinking this water causes diarrhoea,’ says Chobi Kanti Ray, a housewife.
Sukrit Mohan Sarkar, another resident says, ‘enclosures, spread over miles, are causing problems for natives of this area as the evaporated salt water causes major air pollution. Most of us are getting skin diseases due to the polluted air.’ Some villagers point out that shrimp cultivation has also increased unemployment in the area.
Principal Achintya Kumar Mondal, president of Dacope upazila Nagorik Parishad points out that besides earthworms, other wild life has also become extinct. ‘Without the trees and vegetation, how can animal like snakes, birds, lizards, mice and others survive!’ he exclaims. He adds that some of the rare species are also extinct now.
Around 6,600 enclosures occupied 90 per cent of Dacope upazila’s arable land. After the death of Korunamoie Sardar on November 7, 1990, a mass movement against Baghdha cultivation drove the number down to around 200 and 300 currently. However, the locals are still struggling with false cases, death threats and other verbal and physical assaults and abuses from the goons working for these shrimp cultivators.
The atrocities continue under the very noses of the law and administration of the area. Last year the government had announced that no one could initiate Baghda cultivation, even when he had sufficient land, without the consent of 86 per cent of land owners of that particular region. Turning a deaf ear to the directive, cultivation has continued over the past few years.
Even the fisheries department, with the support of locals, drafted the ‘Shrimp rule 2008’, bringing restrictions upon Baghda cultivation. Ignoring all these rules, some corrupt and desperate shrimp businessmen are still trying to open sluice gates so as to channel saline water into dry enclosures in order to initiate shrimp cultivation again.
Locals point out that the desperation is also geared by the responsibility of paying back loans that the businessmen had received from the banks. ‘Although, the sector is no longer a profitable sector, they are trying to initiate it at a large scale again just so that the liabilities are less for them,’ says a resident of the area.
While the farmers are facing problems with the yield, most of the families who have been living in these areas for generations have been victims of shrimp cultivation and the businessmen involved in it. Some have even paid with their lives!
‘Subash Mondol of Dacope was brutally murdered in front of his wife and children on November 5, 1986 by a group of goons hired by shrimp businessmen and led by Haq,’ says a resident of Dacope, under condition of anonymity. He adds that these goons are also responsible for the murder of journalist Manik Saha who tried his best to bring the news of Korunamoie Sarder’s murder to public. ‘Around ten murders occurred in this area, which were all connected to the shrimp business. Somehow, the police can never find the bodies and no investigation materialises,’ says another farmer.
Another victim of shrimp businessmen is Momota Sarkar, wife of fifty-year-old Anjan Sarkar of Radhanagar village of Paikgacha Upazila. She shares the peril her family is currently facing, caused by the conspiracies spun by one Montu Mia, a shrimp businessman and cultivator of Paikgacha upazila.
Only two years ago, Montu coerced his second wife, Monowara Begum, into filing a rape case against Momota’s husband, Anjan and father-in-law, 85-year-old Aumullah Sarkar. ‘The rape case was a backlash to Momota’s family’s resistance to Montu’s proposal of leasing our land for shrimp cultivation. This is his trademark move,’ she says.
She reminisces that when she had stepped into her father-in-law’s house for the first time, it used to enjoy a steady supply of rice, cows, goats etc. ‘He had arable lands of around 42 bigha. However, the entire land has been encroached by shrimp cultivators. While we are ourselves passing days in starvation and threats from Montu’s men, the livestock is gradually withering away due to the polluted land and lack of fodder. Some were also lifted off by the Montu’s cadre group,’ she informs.
Monowara also filed a rape case against Birandranath Mistri (80) and his son Bidhan Chandra Mistri (48). Their fault was that they went to the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) to complain against Montu and his activities,’ says Jugal Bairagi, a resident of Aloke Dweep village. Birendranath was being pressured to lease his arable land to Montu for two years since 1996. However, Montu later faked the duration of the contract by overwriting on it. ‘When Birendra was about to end the contract, Montu threatened him and pushed his family out only paying the rent of the land, although the contract was already over,’ he says.
Alhaj Misir Ali was also an affluent farmer of the Deluty union, who is currently being victimised by the cadre group of Wazed Ali, one of the biggest owner of shrimp enclosures at Khulna, and a man of prominence in the area through political and administrative backup.
While talking to Xtra, Misir Ali could not hold back his tears while describing the horrors his family and he had to face at the hands of Wazed’s goons over the past 20 years. Misir Ali, along with some other residents of Deluty union, tried to protest against Wazed’s occupation of arable lands for shrimp cultivation during the early eighties.
Soon he was targeted by Wazed Ali, who filed a number of false cases against Misir and six others. ‘The allegations included gutting and looting of shrimp enclosure and the list of suspects included Dhrubo Mistri, a teacher of Deluty primary school, Salananda Biswas, assistant head teacher of Wazed Ali High School, Kamal Ashish Ray, Protish Ray, Gautom Mondal, Bimol Kobiraj and me. From that moment onwards, my life has been turned into that of a fugitive as both the police and Wazed’s cadre bahini are out to find my family members and me,’ says Misir, before breaking down again.
Wazed Ali, Montu, Sawkat, Mazed, Selim and others are the biggest shrimp cultivators of this area and as alleged by residents and villagers, have forcefully occupied lands of Tetultola, Gongerkona, Lata (east), Lata (west), Hari and Monkia village of Deluty union. Some of their biggest shrimp enclosures are spread over areas between 1,200 bigha and 2,400 bigha, engulfing arable lands of more than two to three villages.
Upon contact, Sardar Rafiqul Haq, president of Khulna Shrimp Farmers’ Association, informs that the allegations of overwriting the contract and others, are not true. ‘Those who bring this allegation have no true document. We are continuing shrimp cultivation here through the permission of ‘Shrimp Wealth Development and Management Committee’. The committee consists of members from the fisheries, forest, environment, land, livestock, agriculture and other departments. So, the alleged aftermath of Baghda cultivation is not true. Some NGOs are trying hard to make this look like a serious issue,’ he says.
Shahabuddin Gazi, a shrimp enclosure owner of Kumarkhali village alleges that it is a conspiracy of the local people to oust the shrimp businessmen as most of them are outsiders. ‘In this region, shrimp and agriculture cultivation can continue side by side. In the last decade, due to virus attack at the shrimp enclosures, the yield was reduced drastically. The rent, therefore, came down to half. At present, the income from shrimp is almost the same as paddy or any other cultivation. Therefore, the locals, who used to willingly rent their arable land to shrimp businessmen are now changing sides and becoming protesters,’ says Aninur Gazi, a shrimp cultivator of Kalinagar, Dacope.
Lutfur Rahman, president of shrimp depot association, Dacope informs that almost 120 depots have been closed down after the embargo on shrimp cultivation caused a massive financial loss for businessmen and also increased unemployment in the region.
Shamsul Haque, office-in-charge of Dacope upazila police station mentions, ‘when we received the news of saltwater entering through sluice gate, we immediately sent our force to stop it. However, the allegation of farmers’ harassment by the shrimp businessmen is not entirely true. ‘
However, the local authorities have a different take on the situation.
Mohsin Ali, Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Dacope says, ‘we have not found anyone who managed to submit a paper, containing 86 per cent peoples’ approval to cultivate Baghda.’
Meanwhile, while discussing the severe water crisis, he says ‘we believe that freshly dug ponds and setting up reservoirs to preserve rain water can solve the ongoing crisis of drinking water.’
Nani Gopal Mondal, parliamentarian from the constituency Khulna-1, says, ‘the negative impact of Baghda cultivation is massive in this region. Most households lack livestocks and staple food while the ponds are nil of local species of fishes. At present, the farmers are trying hard to avoid shrimp cultivation and to resort to farming again. But the shrimp businessmen are trying to protect their enclosures,’ he says.
He points out that after the embargo on shrimp cultivation; paddy cultivation was initiated experimentally on some enclosures. ‘But the soil bed of enclosures is so toxic that paddy cannot survive and the yield remains minimal. Some farmers urge that if the entrance of saltwater can be stopped, two or three years later, the soil may regain its fertility. Torrent rain water and silt from rivers can possibly reduce the toxicity and also improve the fertility of the soil. At this transitional, vulnerable and experimental stage they are seeking subsidies from the government. I encourage the local farmers to maintain unity at deterring saltwater and also seek the police’s help, in this regard,’ he concludes.
Dr Ain-un Nishat, country representative of IUCN explains that where shrimp cultivation has taken place for two to three years, salt has been deposited on the upper layer of those enclosure beds. But where shrimp cultivation has continued for 20 to 25 years, the salt, year after year, has been deposited on to the deep layers of soil.
‘The soil should be washed with a flush of rain water since river water and ground water of most of the areas has also been affected with salinity. Repeated flush with rain water is the way to recover these lands,’ says Nishat.
‘The crops those can survive to some extend in salinated soil should be cultivated more,’ he adds.
Jashim Uddin, assistant professor, department of soil, water and environment, University of Dhaka says that because of shrimp cultivation the pH of the soil of those areas has decreased. He explains that these lands are no longer suited to shrimp cultivation as well.
‘Shrimp cultivation can take when the ph of soil remains static at 5.5. A little above or bellow that will not yield good quality shrimp. As the toxic level became high because of years of cultivation, at one point, even shrimp will not survive in that environment,’ he says.
The Daily Star, April 19, 2009. Amena Khatun, back from Khulna
A few decades of shrimp cultivation has rendered the surface and ground water sources too saline for consumption in two upazilas in Khulna and an acute drinking water crisis has arisen in the area affecting thousands of locals.
People living in the Dakop and Paikgachha upazilas are suffering from such a severe shortage of safe drinking water that it has resulted in widespread diarrhoea and dysentery in the area.
Residents of Kamarkhola, Kalinagar, Saharabad, Joynagar, Satgharia villages under Dakop upazila and Madhukhali, Hanirabad, Radhanagar, Alokdip, Munkia, Dighalia, Bainchapara village in Paikgachha upazila are so hard hit by the problem for the last couple of months that they live in fear of massive health disaster at anytime.
Dr Akbar Hossain from Dakob upazila health complex said that around 12-15 people are seeking admission in the complex each day and the numbers are increasing rapidly. Most of those admitted are children under the age of five and are suffering from diarrhoea and dysentery.
“They all suffer from acute respiratory infection (ARI) from consumption of impure water,” he said.
Locals say high levels of salinity in surface and ground water has almost become a permanent problem here. Even the water pumped out by deep tube-wells is too saline for drinking.
They complained that the local administration is yet to take any constructive initiatives to solve this problem.
According to Dakop Upazila Nirbahi Office, a total of 2216 ponds in 106 villages under nine unions of the upazila cater to villagers drinking water needs. But most of the ponds have dried up in recent months due to the soaring temperature and especially because the area has not experienced any rainfall this year.
Chhabi Rani Mandal, 40, a housewife from Kalinagar village, told this correspondent,
“Every day I walk 6 kilometres to fetch one pitcher of drinking water from nearby village. On days it is not possible for me to do so, my children are forced to drink the muddy and salty water from the almost dried up pond nearby. They are all suffering from dysentery now.”
Jhumpa Roy, a student of class five at Kamarkhola Government Primary School ,said she gets to drink a glass of water during the six hours (8.00 am to 2.00 pm) at school. Jhumpa, Shavan, Rupa, Mohon and many other children of the school say that that’s the best glass of water they get to drink in a day.
Shavan said, “Often students get into a fight when the water in the containers dip to the bottom levels as children think they will not get their share that day.”
Asim Roy, headmaster of the school, said, “Most of the students suffer from dehydration due to the small amount of water they get to drink.”
“I have applied several times for funds to build a concrete water reservoir to the Thana Education Officer (TEO) but didn’t get any response,” he said.
Dakop Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mohsin Ali however said that his office is about to launch a project soon to set up water reservoirs in each school to partly overcome the drinking water crisis. He added that since the government has limitations to respond to such schemes quickly enough, private organisations should come forward to help.
Shamaresh Roy, Chairman of Kamarkhola Union said, “We hope to dig a fresh pond but the present crisis would continue until the monsoons if the government doesn’t come forward with alternatives.”
World Vision, a non-government organisation working in the area, has dug two ponds while and excavated 20 others to help solve the crisis, but that doesn’t entirely solve the crisis faced by the majority of the people in the area.
Siddiqur Rahman Khan, NewAge, August 4, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh
The government will formulate a national shrimp policy to expedite shrimp farming through developed technology sustainable in the local socioeconomic, cultural, and environment conditions.
According to a draft of the National Shrimp Policy 2008, it is going to brand shrimp a cent per cent foreign exchange earning good, besides encouraging and promoting public initiatives and private investment in shrimp cultivation, processing and export.
Talking to New Age last week, a fisheries and livestock ministry official said, ‘Recommendations made by the private sector and export-oriented associations and individuals would be given priority in the proposed shrimp policy.’
‘If a planned farming of shrimp is introduced the per-hector production and income would increase by two to three times,’ he said. ‘The proposed policy will come into force within a short while.’
At present, 2.17 lakh hectors of land and about 1.5 crore people are engaged in shrimp farming in the country, according to official statistics available with the fisheries and livestock ministry.
The draft shrimp policy has also proposed introducing practical education on shrimp farming in science textbooks at primary and secondary schools while steps will be taken to create opportunities of getting higher education on the subject at local and international level.