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Wetland Specialist Study, Northeast Regional Water Management Plan, Bangladesh Flood Action Plan 6



Policies and institutions affecting wetlands, like wetland resources themselves, cut across sectoral boundaries, bound up in a complex web of sectoral resource management policies, legislation, and organizations. This chapter describes wetland-related aspects of:

Policy context

  • National policies
  • Key international agreements
  • Legislation and standards
Institutional context
  • Central government agencies
  • Local government agencies
  • NGOs (international, regional, local); and
  • Government/NGO links
  • Donor agencies
  • Public participation: community management and education; role of elected officials; community/NGO links
  • Projects and programmes: ongoing projects and programmes of relevance to wetlands
Land tenure, resource management, research, and human resources development aspects are an integral part of the above areas, and are documented within relevant sections.

Our main observations on institutional arrangements are summarized at the conclusion of this section.


The Government of Bangladesh has clearly committed itself to:

  • Environmentally sound management in general,
  • Environmentally sound management of biodiversity assets, including ecologically valuable areas such as wetlands and particular communities and species, and
  • Efforts to achieve and maintain environmental quality, including air and water quality, which is acceptable to domestic, industrial, and agricultural users, and which support sustainable ecosystem functioning, including fisheries production
International agreements and national policies relevant to NEMREP are catalogued in Table 4.1 and described below.

4.2.1  National and Sectoral Policy Statements

Memorandum for the Bangladesh Aid Group 1992-93. This document summarizes the 'New Development Perspective', the Government's "vision for the future development of the country consistent with participatory democracy." Overall goals are identified, and among nine strategies specified to meet these goals is:

"ix. integration of national conservation strategy to prevent the degradation of the environment and improve its capacity of sustainable development with multi-level economic planning." - p. 2
Eight 'selected development issues' are identified and discussed in the document. One of these is "Environmental Protection and Management"; part of the discussion of it reads,
"For protection and conservation of natural resources and to link all developmental activities with the environment for ensuring sustainable development, the following objectives will be pursued during the FFYP period -

"(a) control and prevention of environmental pollution and degradation related to soil, water, and air;

"(b) promotion of environment friendly activities in the field of development;

"(c) preservation, protection, and development of natural resource bases;

"(d) strengthening the capabilities of public and private sectors to manage environment concern as a basic requisite for sustainable development; and

"(e) creation of people's awareness for participation in environment protection activities.

"For attainment of the above objectives, the Ministry of Environment and Forest has already initiated a number of actions in different areas. . . . draft national environmental policy . . . draft National Conservation Strategy . . . provision for reflecting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in all public sector projects. Similar measure is underway for the private sector projects. The Pollution Control Office set up in 1977 has been thoroughly reorganised, expanded and elevated as the Department of Environment. The existing Environmental Legislation is begin revised in order to re-orient it to the requirement of the present time. . . . [MOEF] has also prepared a draft National Management Action Plan to address major environmental issues and concerns . . . Environmentally vulnerable areas have been identified for priority action taking into consideration the developmental needs." - p. 76.

National Environment Policy. This is the Government's most comprehensive statement of overall environmental policy. It consists of an introductory statement; six objectives; policies in each of 15 sectoral and issue areas; and a short section on institutional arrangements. Points of particular relevance are (page numbers refer to the English translation in typescript):

"Maintenance of the ecological balance and over all progress and development of the country through protection and improvement of the environment. . ." - p. 2

"Ensuring sustainable, long-term, and environmentally congenial utilisation of all national resources" - p. 2

"Conserve and develop wetlands and protect migratory birds. . . ." [(6), Forest, Wildlife, and Bio-diversity] - p. 4

"Prevent activities which diminish the wetlands/natural habitats of fish and encourage promotional measures in this regard. . . ." [(2), Fisheries and Livestock] - p. 4

"Ratify all environment-related International Laws/Conventions/Protocols that Bangladesh considers ratifiable and amend/modify existing laws/regulations in line with the ratified laws/conventions/protocols." [(4), Legal Framework] - p. 7

Institutional arrangements
"MOEF would coordinate the implementation of this policy. A National Environment Committee with the Head of Government as the Chairperson be constituted to giver overall direction for implementation of the environment policy." - p. 7
Fourth Five Year Plan 1990-5. "Since Bangladesh is a small country with very large population, extra care is required to ensure that economic development does not lead to increased deterioration of its ecology and environment." (From Chapter I, Framework for the Perspective Plan, p. I.3.)  The Plan does not, however, dedicate a chapter or section to environmental concerns as such. These are dealt with sectorally; some of the relevant aspects are noted below.

In agriculture (Chapter V, Section B), flood-prone wetland areas are recognized as marginal for agriculture, and expansion or improvement of cropping in these areas is not sought:

"Floods are a fact of life and a part of the ecosystems of Bangladesh affecting land use pattern and the agricultural system of the country. While effective flood protection measures will form an integral part of development efforts during the Fourth Plan period, production plans in the crop sub-sector would focus attention on low-risk areas with less reliance on summer crops particularly in flood-prone areas." - p.V.A-13
In flood control and water resources (Chapter V, Section B), the need for integrated planning, which could include consideration of wetland values, is noted:
"The FFYP would focus attention on these aspects [agriculture, fishery, land use, and other environmental and socioeconomic considerations] in planning and implementation of future . . . programmes through integrated planning by involving all concerned agencies of the Government as well as the local people." - p. V.B-10
In fisheries (Chapter V, Section C):
"Protection and conservation measures will include: . . . imposition of penalty on the industrial dumping of untreated and harmful industrial wastes into any open water system." -p. V.C-5
In forestry (Chapter V, Section E),
"To preserve the national heritage, a network of protected areas characterising different types of terrestrial life and ecosystems will be established to help maintain biodiversity, and preserve gene pools and critical habitats of rare and endemic plants and animals. The national botanical gardens will be further developed. Measures will be taken to preserve and protect the national parks system in its existing form. Particular emphasis will be given to wildlife protection and preservation through strict enforcement of existing laws and establishment of game sanctuaries." - p. V.E-11
National Conservation Strategy. The NCS is "the blueprint for the integration of both environmental and economic concerns" (p. I). It has been reviewed by the relevant ministries and its submission for Cabinet approval is thought to be imminent. It states that:
"A national policy should be formulated for preservation of wildlife. The proposed policy will include an objective statement specifying areas protected for preservation and regeneration of wildlife . . . [It] should be linked with the national forest policy to avoid conflict." (p. 119).
It also says that
"The Protected Areas System of National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, and Game Reserves should be expanded and maintained since they are the areas of unique richness in biodiversity." (p. 155)
National Environment Management Action Plan. Currently, a set of sectoral discussion papers prepared by the NEMAP consultants are being circulated to Government for review. Each paper identifies sectoral policy, key environmental issues, intersectoral linkages, relevant GOB environmental policy, an environmental action plan (long list of desirable actions), and key areas of intervention (short list). NERP has been able to obtain copies of papers covering the areas of agriculture, fisheries, water resources, forestry, and coastal and marine resources management.

Forestry Master Plan. The Forestry Master Plan (FMP) Project concluded earlier in 1993. It produced a plan for the forestry sector and supporting reports. The Plan is under review by the Government.

4.2.2  International Agreements

Rio Convention on Biological Diversity. This instrument was adopted and signed by 157 nations including Bangladesh (and Canada) at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) on 14 June 1992 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. MOEF is preparing the instrument of accession. The Convention "establishes new legal commitments on conservation, finance, access, technology transfer and benefit sharing that are likely to make it an extremely important instrument for the conservation of biological diversity in the years ahead. It has both conservation and development objectives and there is a strong link between the needs of people and conservation." Among other things, the Convention requires Contracting Parties (quotes taken from Biodiversity Coalition, 1992):

"to develop national strategies, plans, and programmes to conserve and use sustainably biological diversity . . .

"[to] integrat[e] . . . conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into sectoral and cross-sectoral plans and policies . . .

"to identify components of biological diversity important for conservation and sustainable use; to identify threats to them; and to monitor them . . .

"[to] establish[] 'a system of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken';

"[to] regulat[e] (private) or [to] manag[e] (public) biological resources important for biodiversity conservation to ensure their conservation and sustainable use . . .

"[to] rehabilitat[e] degraded ecosystems and promot[e] recovery of threatened species . . .

"to legislat[e] for protection of threatened species;

"[to] prevent[] introduction of exotic species;

"[to] encourag[e] and maintain[] relevant practices of indigenous and local communities;

"[to] support ex situ conservation 'predominantly for the purpose of complementing in situ measures' and to support setting up facilities in countries of origin, especially countries of origin, and to help recovery and re-introduction of threatened species . . .

"to adopt 'measures that act as incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of components of biological diversity' . . .

"to develop research and training capabilities especially in developing countries . . .[and] to conduct public education and awareness programs . . .

"to adopt EIA procedures for projects 'likely to have significant adverse effects on biological diversity with a view to avoiding or minimising such effects.' . . .

"to facilitate access to genetic resources for environmentally sound uses, although access must be 'on mutually agreed terms' and 'subject to prior informed consent' . . . parties are encouraged to conduct their research on genetic resources in the country of origin and should share benefits . . . with the Party providing the resources . . .

"to provide or facilitate access to technologies relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity; and technologies that make use of genetic resources and do not significantly damage the environment . . ."

Additional articles of the Convention encourage Parties to facilitate information exchange and technical and scientific cooperation to help developing states to strengthen their human skills and institutions; and provides for developing countries to participate in and have priority access to the results of biotechnology research. Each Party "undertakes to provide financial support ' in accordance with its capabilities' for national measures to achieve the Convention's objective. Developed country Parties 'shall provide new and additional financial resources to enable developing country Parties to meet the agreed full incremental costs' of implementing the Convention."

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat. The Ramsar Convention is an inter-governmental treaty which provides the framework for international cooperation for the conservation of wetland habitats. Wetlands are recognized as being of international importance because local human impacts such as exploitation and pollution can affect wetlands in other countries; many wetland animals migrate through several countries; and many countries required advice and support from others in order to conserve their own wetlands. The Contracting Parties to the Convention (Switzerland Fed. Off. Environ. For. Landscape, undated):

Accept the obligation to include wetland conservation within their national land-use planning;

Have to promote the wise use of wetlands in their territory and maintain the ecological character of these wetlands (characteristics such as quality of soil, water, plants, and animals);

Must establish nature reserves in areas of special ecological value;

Undertake to train personnel in wetland research, management, and wardening;

Designate the world's most significant sites for inclusion in a "List of Wetlands of International Importance"; and

Undertake to cooperate for the management of shared water systems and the conservation of shared migratory species.

The Convention is the only inter-governmental agreement to deal with wetland conservation. It was drawn up in 1971 at an international meeting in Ramsar, Iran, and entered into force in 1975. More than 55 countries are party to the Convention; 11 are in Asia (Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Jordan, Japan, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, China, and Bangladesh). Several hundred sites, covering 34 million hectares, have been designated in the list of wetlands of international importance. A key role in the creation of the Convention, and continuing technical support, is provided by the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau (IWRB) in Slimbridge, England.

Periodically, conferences are held (Italy, 1981; Netherlands, 1984; Canada, 1987; Switzerland, 1990; Japan, 1993); these provide the Contracting Parties the opportunity to carry out some of their commitments under the Convention (accept new members and sites; review site status and pledge assistance, and so on). In 1992, an Asian Wetland Symposium, under the auspices of International Lake Environment Committee Foundation, was held in Japan in anticipation of the June 1993 conference of Contracting Parties (Isozaki et al., 1993).

The Sundarbans is so far Bangladesh's only Ramsar site. It is 40,000 ha in size, making it the third largest in Asia and sixteenth largest in the world.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). "Illegal trade in wildlife, including ivory and skins but excluding fish and timber, is probably the world's second largest illegitimate business (only narcotics are worth more) . . . CITES aims to eradicate illegal trade in wildlife and its products, and to ensure that future transactions are held at sustainable levels by the use of mandatory permits." (UNEP, undated).

Two Appendices attached to the Convention, periodically updated, list species that are threatened or potentially threatened by international trade. Mandated activities under the convention are coordinated by the CITES Secretariat on behalf of the contracting parties, and include administration of the mandatory permit system, plus external projects such as wildlife studies and support for realization of economic potential of properly regulated trade in wildlife.

The CITES programme in Bangladesh is implemented and monitored by the Forest Department. There is no National Committee for the country. Numerous wildlife species found in Bangladesh are currently listed in the CITES Appendices.

World Heritage Convention and UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme.  Bangladesh is also a party to the World Heritage Convention, which is designed to protect cultural and natural heritage areas of outstanding universal value, and a participant in the UNESCO MAB Programme. There are no biodiversity-related measures currently active under either agreement.

4.2.3  Legislation, regulations, and standards

Wetland ownership.  Permanent settlement of land dates to the 1790s for purposes of collection of revenue. Under this settlement, landed estates including forests, wetlands, and water bodies were settled on landlords (zamindari), and actual occupants of the land became tenants-at-will. Various reforms were introduced to curb abuses, but the system persisted until passage of the State Acquisition and Tenancy Act of 1950. With this act, the zamindari system was ended, and all types of rent-receiving interests in land were to be acquired by the State on payment of compensation to zamindari and tenants. The Act also abolished private ownership of forests, wetlands, and water bodies. In 1956, a policy decision was taken for the Government to acquire all remaining rent-receiving interests in the country, popularly known as "wholesale acquisition of zamindaries". Inadequate and fraudulent land settlement records dating or dated to this period continue to hinder resource management (particularly forest management) in some areas (Appendix 6, pp. 4-6, FMP, 1992a).

Hunting and protected areas.  The Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation) Order, 1973 "provides for the preservation, conservation, and management of wildlife in Bangladesh." The law indicates if, when, how, and under what permits "game" and "protected" animals may be hunted. It makes provision for declaration of wild life sanctuaries and national parks, and indicates activities prohibited from such areas (pp. 56-58, Huq, 1991).

Pollution. The Environment Pollution Control Ordinance 1977 provides for the "control, prevention, and abatement of pollution of the environment of Bangladesh." (p. 73, Huq, 1991) This superseded the Water Pollution Control Ordinance 1973.

Forests. The Forest Act 1927 is the basic law governing public forests in Bangladesh. Wildlife exploitation within these areas are regulated by the Rules to Regulate Hunting, Shooting, and Fishing within the Controlled and Vested Forests 1959. No swamp forests are included in the government reserved and other forests, so this type of legislation has little direct linkage to wetlands. There is, however, an indirect linkage: to prevent illegal removal of public forest products, the Transit Rules made under the Forest Act prescribe inter alia controls on removal of timber and other products from non-Forest Department lands, including wetland swamp forests, and "it is the general impression that the Transit Rules have become an instrument of harassment" (Appendix 6, p. 9, FMP, 1992).

Fisheries. The East Bengal Protection and Conservation of Fish Act 1950 provides for the protection and conservation of fish in the inland waters of Bangladesh.

Proposed legislation.  New legislation entitled Environment Protection Act is currently in preparation by the government. NERP has not yet obtained any information about it.

Water quality standards. Draft water quality standards dated late 1992 were obtained by NERP. NERP has not yet been able to confirm their current status.


4.3.1  Regional governmental associations

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which has as members Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, is in the process of setting up a Technical Committee on Environment.

In addition to this, formation of a specialist Regional Wetlands Committee and a SAARC Environmental NGO Network were suggested in the Recommendations on a [Regional] Environmental Action Plan - for Consideration by SAARC Summit, prepared at a November 1992 meeting of the Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan members of the Global 500 Forum (established at Rio di Janeiro in 1992 to "link the members of UNEP's Roll of Honour"). As far as NERP can ascertain, this document has not been officially acknowledged by SAARC. Some environmental issues were discussed at the Summit, which took place in April 1993, but wetlands were not.

4.3.2  Central government agencies

Wetland Ownership: Ministry of Land and Forest Department

The large freshwater wetlands of the Northeast are owned almost entirely by the Ministry of Land. This agency is mandated to raise revenue from its land assets, and this is mainly accomplished through renting or leasing use rights of various types, such as fishing rights through the District Commissioners' offices. Neither MOL nor the DCs have a mandate for or expertise in resource management, or any history of contact with donor agencies or donor-funded technical assistance.

MOL can assign the leasing function to other government agencies. The best known example is the assignment of small fisheries (<8 ha) lease sales to local government. MOL receives a nominal fee in recognition of its ownership.

MOL has on previous occasions entered into management agreements with resource management agencies. The best known example is an agreement with the Forest Department to afforest coastal char lands.

In 1973, Sylhet Pulp and Paper Mill took possession from the Forest Department of about 50,000 ha of land nominally under reed forest to provide raw materials for the mill, but this was unsuccessful. As a result, in early 1993, SPPM proposed to return this area to the Forest Department in exchange for 20,000 ha of land at higher elevation. Negotiations between SPPM and FD are ongoing.

Land tenure disputes, with some court cases originating in documents dating or dated to Independence, and ongoing encroachment of MOL and FD land are important problems.

Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas Management: Forest Department

In 1973, a Wildlife Circle was established in support of the wildlife preservation legislation passed in that year. In 1976, a Wildlife Advisory Board was established under that legislation. The Wildlife Circle "operated until 1983, when it was disbanded due to budgetary constraints following a review by the Enam Committee. The majority of the 112 staff of the Circle were merged into other operations within the Forest Department." In 1985, in response to a request from the Wildlife Advisory Board, "the Government appointed a Task Force composed of members from inside and outside Government to examine the current status of wildlife, identify causes for its depletion, and suggest appropriate arrangements to improve conservation." The Task Force reported in June 1986 and recommended inter alia that the existing protected area system be consolidated and augmented, and that a wildlife and protected areas management organization be created within the Forest Department (Wildlife Task Force, 1986). No action has been taken on any of the significant Task Force recommendations (all quotes and conclusion are from AWB, 1991, pp. 13-14).

Of the numerous nominally protected areas in the country, staff with roles defined to include protected area management are on station only in the Sundarban and in Bhawal National Park 40 km north of Dhaka.

As was mentioned above, the CITES programme in Bangladesh is implemented and monitored by the Forest Department, which participates in meetings of the parties to the Convention, provides documentation to animal traders, and imposes bans on prohibited items.

Fisheries Management: Department of Fisheries

The Department of Fisheries is responsible for biological management of the open water fishery. Its structure and activities are documented in the Fisheries Specialist Study.

Wild Floral Research and Conservation: National Herbarium and National Botanic Gardens

The Bangladesh National Herbarium is a component of the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council, Forestry Division. It is engaged in "(I) exploration and collection plant resources; (ii) providing identification services to various institutes, agencies, and individuals; (iii) publication of the flora of Bangladesh and other floristic reports, and (iv) international exchange of herbarium specimens and publications. BNH is headed by a Director with a sanctioned strength of 13 professional and 10 support staff. It is planned to develop BNH as an autonomous research institution under the MOEF" (p. 21, Appendix 8, Forestry Master Plan, 1992a).

BNH facilities and those of the National Botanic Gardens are being consolidated and upgraded under an ODA-funded project.

Irrigation, Water Development, and Flood Control: MIWDFC, BWDB, WARPO, FPCO, and Others

The Ministry of Irrigation, Water Development, and Flood Control has overall responsibility for water resource development in Bangladesh. This responsibility is exercised through the Bangladesh Water Development Board, the Water Resources Planning Organization, and the Flood Plan Coordination Organization.

Other agencies involved in water resource development are the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) which has responsibility for some smaller-scale infrastructure, Ministry of Food which allocates foodgrain to BWDB earthwork construction, the Ministry of Land Administration and Land Revenue which acquires land needed in the construction of civil works, and the Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization (SPARRSO) which handles various types of data.

Water Quality Monitoring and Pollution Control: Department of Environment, Department of Public Health Engineering, Municipal Corporations, and Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation

Department of Environment. The Environment Pollution Control Board and Environment Pollution Control Cell was established in support of the Environment Pollution Control Ordinance 1977 with responsibilities limited to pollution control aspects.

Environment pollution control projects were initiated in 1978 by appointing five divisional officers with a working force of 118 personnel. The offices were: Dhaka Division, Dhaka; Research Laboratory, Dhaka; Chittagong Division, Chittagong; Khulna Division, Khulna; and, Rajshahi Division, Bogra. The main objectives were:

  • Surveying industrial units and identifying the industries creating pollution.
  • Reducing air and sound pollution.
  • Collecting water samples from rivers, lakes, and samples of ground water for testing their quality.
  • Testing the water supplied to major towns and implementing pollution control rules and laws.
  • Acting upon public complaints.
  • Surveying river water and coastal area water for taking pollution control measures.
  • Taking necessary action against waste dumping.
  • Surveying and researching bio-gas production.
Between 1978 and 1985, the Environment Pollution Control Cell was funded under the development budget. In 1985, a Department of Environment Pollution Control (DEPC) was established under the GOB revenue budget. It has four divisional offices (Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, and Dhaka) with eleven staff each, plus 14 head office staff in Dhaka. Each of the divisions has a laboratory to undertake necessary tests and analysis. Major achievements included:
  • Relocation of tanneries from the Buriganga River
  • Ban on toxic waste imports
  • Preparation of national environmental quality standards (DOE, 1991b)
  • Prevented registration of eight harmful pesticides
  • Identified 2072 industries causing pollution through a survey of 5967 industries
  • Collected water samples from 27 rivers, analyzed these and established a data bank
  • Collected and analyzed 434 ground water samples
  • Established 379 bio-gas plants
In 1990, the Ministry of Environment and Forests was created, composed of two departments, Environment and Forestry. Within it, DEPC became the Environment Pollution Control Directorate. Recent activities include preparation of new water quality standards and a project to collect and analyze surface water samples from each district.

Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE). The Department of Public Health Engineering is responsible for rural water supply and sanitation.

Municipal Corporations. The Municipal Corporations in each major urban centre are responsible for urban infrastructure, which includes urban water supply and sewage conveyance and treatment systems, development zoning, and so on.

Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC). The Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation, under the Ministry of Industries, is by far the largest public sector industry, with 22 enterprises, including four pulp and paper mills, and employing over 30,000 people to produce a wide range of products.

Regional environment-related higher education: Shahjalal University of Science and Technology

Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet. There is an Environment Committee at the University which has expressed an interest in increasing university involvement in regional environmental concerns, including water quality monitoring, fisheries management, and afforestation. The proposed Biology Department currently under consideration by the academic council may also afford an opportunity for an emphasis on locally relevant environmental issues in the new faculty positions, courses, and research activities that this would entail.

4.3.3  Non-governmental organizations

International and regional NGOs

Several international and regional NGOs have played key roles in the creation of international and regional agreements, resources, and fora which have been of immeasurable value in assisting Asian countries, including Bangladesh, to address national biodiversity concerns. Each of these organizations will likely to continue to serve in this capacity.

International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  IUCN, founded in 1948 with the sponsorship of France, UNESCO, and the Swiss League for the Protection of Nature, is an umbrella organization whose members include 61 state, 128 government agencies (more than half are developing countries), and most of the major non-governmental conservation organizations such as the national branches of the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund). It is the largest international group concerned with natural resource management. Asia regional office in Bangkok 1991. Regionally, IUCN activities include publication in 1990 of the Directory of Asian Wetlands; and sponsorship in December 1991 of the International Conference on Waterfowl and Wetlands in Karachi (Scott, 1992).

IUCN has been active in Bangladesh since 1985, and established a country office here in 1989. IUCN has been involved in the preparation of the National Conservation Strategy for a number of years; and co-sponsored a National Workshop on Sustainable Management of Freshwater Wetlands in Bangladesh (December, 1992).

International Waterfowl and Wetland Research Bureau.  IWRB, founded in 1954, has a small staff which stimulates and coordinates waterfowl and wetland activities worldwide. It played a key role in the creation of the Ramsar Convention, to which it continues to provide technical support. IWRB's Waterfowl Division coordinates the monitoring of waterfowl populations in over 90 countries (including Bangladesh) through the International Waterfowl Census (IWC). The results of these, and of other studies coordinated through the research group, are used to formulate management plans for waterfowl populations and recovery plans for threatened species. IWRB's Wetland Division coordinates activities through a wetland management group. Activities include the compilation of regional wetland inventories, the preparation and implementation of management plans, the publication of wetland management handbooks, and the organization of waterfowl and wetland workshops and training courses.

In Bangladesh, IWRB initiated the annual waterfowl count program (responsibility for the count in Asian countries was shifted to AWB in 1992), which includes sites in the Northeast Region.

Asian Wetland Bureau. AWB, founded in 1983, is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the protection and sustainable utilization of wetland resources in Asia. The headquarters office is located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Indonesia, the Philippines, and India have national offices. Funding sources for conservation activities include contributions from international environmental NGOs, revenues from environmental consulting, and private contributions. AWB works in four specific areas: biological diversity; water resources; institutional strengthening and public awareness; and environmental management and policy. Its activities include organizing wetland study and management courses and scientific symposia, and publishing reports and a twice-yearly newsletter (Asian Wetland News).

In Bangladesh, AWB has had responsibility (since 1992) for the annual International Waterfowl Count, in cooperation with IWRB. AWB has provided consultants to some development projects (Forestry III project appraisal/World Bank, NERP), and has participated in the annual Flood Action Plan conferences. AWB will likely merge with IWRB.

National NGOs

Nature Conservation Movement. NACOM, formally established in 1987, concerns itself with nature conservation and field research, focusing mainly on wetland ecosystems, with special emphasis on herpetology. The organization has been involved in a variety of projects across the country, including:

  • Teknaf peninsula wild elephant population management plan (WWF);
  • Wildlife surveys -- of Hispid Hare and Pygmy Hog (IUCN/SSC), Monitor Lizard (IUCN/WTMC), Sarus Crane (ICF), Otter (WWF), Estuarine River Terrapin (WWF), Freshwater turtle trade monitoring ("Care for the Wild" and University of Kent DICE), Padma River Gharials
  • Marine turtle nesting beach surveys; turtle egg artificial hatching experiments, involving local people nest and egg protection (NACOM/Forest Department Joint Venture)
  • Coastal wetland assessment -- with Asian Wetland Bureau, as part of World Bank Forestry III project appraisal
  • NERP wetland studies
  • Three rural Nature Conservation Centres at Whykeong, Cox's Bazaar District, Kapasia, Gazipur District, and Sardarpara, Munshiganj District, involving local people fully in operation and management and emphasizing non-formal education (Nagao Environmental Foundation, Japan; BRAC)
  • Production of Wetlands of Bangladesh (1994) in cooperation with BCAS
Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS). BCAS, established in 1984, addresses a broad range of environmental policy and research issues. Projects of relevance to the wetlands of the Northeast Region have included: environmental research projects in the surface water sector, in particular environmental case studies of haor and pond ecosystems; public consultations for a People's State of the Environment Report (in prep.); and, in cooperation with NACOM, production of Wetlands of Bangladesh (1994).

4.3.4  Government/NGO links

One of the recommendations of the 1991 Karachi meeting (see IUCN activities above) was that the Government should designate a Wetland Committee that would include representatives of a wide range of interested parties from inside and outside government. Since that time, a group of environmental NGOs met with the Secretary, MOEF, for discussions, but this has not yet been institutionalized.

It is now usual at national (FAP), regional (SAARC), and international (Rio) meetings for NGOs to convene parallel meetings and forward their recommendations to the governmental sessions. Also, Audubon (U.S. non-profit conservation organization) has been designated by a group of international environmental NGOs, to monitor and disseminate information about the Flood Action Plan, with the aim of influencing donor governments, particularly in Europe.

4.3.5  Donor agencies

Numerous donor agency environmental reviews were prepared in the late 1980s and 1990s. The more recent ones each note the special significance of the wetlands of the Northeast Region (p. 39, Dean and Treygo for CIDA, 1989; p. 25, USAID, 1990; and pp. ix and 34-35, World Bank, 1991), whereas the older ones do not (ADB, 1987; Barker for UNDP, 1988; DANIDA, 1988). Table 4.2 indicates which donors are supporting projects and programmes of relevance to the region's wetlands.

4.3.6  Public participation

The region's wetlands contribute to the livelihood of a high percentage of the local community through floodplain agriculture, open water capture fisheries, swamp forest plant products, domestic water supply, and provides a means of transportation and communication. In addition, these wetlands support a great variety of plant and animal species.

People, in and around these wetlands, have evolved indigenous management systems. Although in principle, the land tenureship lies with the Land and Revenue Department of the Government, in practice the resources at a subsistence level are being manipulated by the people of the locality. The involvement of local people in wetland management is of prime importance since they are an active part of the ecosystem.

There are various systems used in the region to guide the exploitation of the resources. Jalmohals are leased out under the guiding principles of nitimala. This approach is based on a peoples-participatory approach to fisheries resource management. Mosque-based hijal forest management involves local participation in management of community forests and reflects the concept of sustainable resource utilization. Garubala is a term used in the region to describe the system of community management of livestock. These indigenous community management systems within the wetlands are under threat because of shifts in the social power structure and because of conflicts at the political level.

The United Nations has suggested that it is more useful to conceive of community participation as taking place in small communities comprising individuals "at the lowest level of aggregation at which people organize for common effort" (Popular Participation in Decision Making for Development, 1975). Accordingly, participation is considered to entail the voluntary and democratic of people in "(a) contributing to the development effort, (b) sharing equitably in the benefits derived thereof, and (c) decision-making in respect of setting goals, formulating policies, and planning and implementing economic and social development programmes" (Midgley 1986).

People's participation involves community action and, particularly in the context of the wetlands, needs to ensure that the poorest of the poor have an effective role -- in choosing social actions, in implementing decisions, and in deriving equitable benefits from the programmes. Specific areas in which there is an urgent requirement for public participation needs to be engendered are:

  • Lowland floodplain /haor forest management.
  • Sustainable utilization and protection of wetland weeds and wildlife.
  • Integrated management of wetland ecosystems.
4.3.7  Projects and programmes

Current, future, and proposed projects and programmes in and affecting the wetlands of the Northeast Region other than water resources projects are listed briefly in Table 4.2. Additional information is given on the Annual Waterfowl Count.

Existing water resources projects are shown in Figure 5. Existing projects are documented in the NERP Regional Water Resources Development Status (NERP, 1992). The water resources projects proposed in the NERP regional plan are documented in a series of pre-feasibility studies and in the Regional Plan itself.

Annual Waterfowl Count. An international waterfowl count has been organized by IWRB in January every year since 1987. Count data has been submitted by Bangladesh every year since that time. Sites in the Northeast Region have been included for the last two years. Count sites are fixed, and include 6 sites in the Northeast Region.

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