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Saturday, September 26, 2020 10:23:51 PM
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Combine Economy & Ecology

By Shishir Reza
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The climate and water bodies are apposite for various fish farming in Bangladesh. There are 8545 bunged water bodies - 3.46 lac acres and 3773 open water bodies- 27.82 lac acres. Most of them are under contract farming by local farmers and national or international agencies. As a result, intensification (extraction of ground water, agrochemicals, hybrid seeds and patent) of water bodies makes it suitable only for hybrid fish, not for aboriginal fish, particularly in coastal region.
In haor areas, almost all segments of cultivated lands are used for at least one rice crop a year. Approximately a 16 percent of the total rice area of Bangladesh falls into this region. Boro is the main variety of rice grown here. The aquatic vegetation of this area provides domestic livestock with a rich grazing. Local people use various herbs and aquatic plants as alternative sources of fuel and fertilizers. Fishery is one of the constitutive sectors of haor economy in Bangladesh. Haors are rich in aquatic diversity in general and diverse fish species in particular. In general, there are 143 indigenous and 12 exotic species of fish along with several species of freshwater prawn in the haor region. Tanguar Haor is characterized by around 141 fish species including some exotic species ? Baim, Tara Baim, Gulsha, Gutum, Tengra, Titna, Beti, Air, Kakia, Garia and Gang Magur.
The farming of prawn in saline water has created a colossal concern of ecological degradation, salinity intrusion and poverty in Bangladesh. Out of 20 million people, more than 1.5 to 2 million people are directly involved in prawn culture in saline water at coastal area of Bangladesh. In Bangladesh coastal region, about 20 hectares lands are apposite for cultivation out of 32 hectares land. The extension of this area is 98 sub-districts out of 15 districts. Consequently, the land turns into saline which lowers the crop production. In coastal region, for land protection from flood and saline water, government started to build polders since the decade of sixty. Due to the rent-seekers and looting classes, it could not possible rather such kind of initiatives degraded the fisheries and crop production.
During the period of seventy, prawn culture was introduced not only in general wetland but also within the polder as well. In 1980-85, through second 5th year plan, government declared the prawn culture as an industrial sector. Government will endow with financial support for prawn culture and related business practices. It was a contradictory approach between the period of 1960-70 and 1980-85. At that time, there was no judgment on environmental safety, ecological stability or river impact assessment before the project implementation.
In general, our coastal regions and rivers are losing her ecological and physical stability due to the corporate elites and land grabbers. Through the establishing of unplanned switch gate, culvert, bridge, our local rivers are exterminating - mathavanga, kopotakkho, kaligongha, halda, gouri, baleshor, horinghata, muktesshori, chetona, vodra, horihor etc. in this context, ecological insurgencies are intensifying.  
At the same time, our native fish resources are losing its breeding ground for future fish population. Some examples of indigenous fish are - vetki, mola, topse, dhela, darkina, jeol, puti, pabda, vol, chanda, bele, tengra, bashpata etc. They are guiltless sufferer of anthropogenic activities and contract farming. They are losing from existing ecosystem. About 58 types of fish are under extinction.
Commercial prawn culture is an awful economy but ecologically suicidal. In addition, it is socially impoverishing and economically unjust. It is true that, prawn is like as white gold of Bangladesh, contributes to earn foreign currency and enrich our economy. Apart from that, we have to think about the cost of ecology and public health. Without ecological inclusion, our existence would be in danger. Time has come to rethink how to combine economy and ecology.
Land of prawn cultures is totally isolated from mainstream crops production area. Salinity tolerant crops must be introduced in coastal region highly. Toxicants free water must be supply among local people. Salts can be use in a sustainable way to protect farming land.

(Shishir Reza is an environment analyst & Associate Member of Bangladesh Economic Association)

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