River, Culture and Livelihoods: Water Pollution and Social Change Around the River Bangshi, Bangladesh

Water pollution and social change

Master's Thesis, 2012

109 Pages, Grade: B+



Executive Summary


Chapter One
1 Introduction
1.1 Community description
2. Landscape and Topography
2.1 Landscape
2.2. Topography
3. Culture and population growth
3.1 Occupational groups
4. Context:
4.1. River Bangshi:

Chapter Two
2. Theoretical Progression and Review of Literature
2.1 Problem statement
2.2 History and contributing factors
2.3 Theory of Change
2.4 Research questions
2.5. Review of literature
2.5.1 Human behavior environmental degradation and stress on water and other local natural resources
2.5.2. Pollution of water: River culture and livelihoods:
2.5.3 Development Industrialization and river/water pollution:
2.5.5 Water Rights and Mobilization of Community
2.5.6 Community, natural resources and mobilization

Chapter Three
3. Methodological approach
3.1 Description and discussion of theories and research instruments
3.2 Descriptions of research tools and techniques’
3.2.1 Village survey:
3.2.2 Focus group discussion (FGD):
3.3 Methodological sequence:
3.4. Methodology matrix:
3.5 Research approach and methodology justification:

Chapter Four
4. Results/Findings
4.1 Results of focus group discussions (FGD) with different groups:
4.1.1 Perceptions on environment and river/water resources degradation
4.1.2 Thoughts on socio-cultural and economic
4.2 Results of descriptive survey
4.2.1. River and general environment
4.2.2 Culture and social change
4.2.3. Socioeconomic and employment
4.2.4. Reclaiming peoples’ local resource rights and community mobilization
4.3 Result of individual interview with different groups i.e. industry owners, government officials, civil society and media and leaders of local and national leaders as follows
4.3.1 Industrialist
4.3.2 Government officials
4.3.3 Civil society and media
4.3.4 Leaders of Political parties
4.4. Results in a tabular and other descriptive form
4.4.1 Peoples perceptions to environmental and social change General environment:
4.4.2. Degradation of water and other local resources: Pollution of river/surface water: Importance of river/Bangshi river: Increased water demand and decreased of ground water level: Loss of commons: Impact on individual and community: Health and disease:
4.4.3. Culture and social change Change in occupations and livelihoods Socio-economic, income and employment:
4.4.4. Peoples perceptions to reclaiming rights to water and other local resources and community mobilization: Individual or community participations for mobilizations

Chapter Five
5 Discussion and analysis of the findings
5.1. Water resources
5.1.1 Pollution of river/water and local resource degradation
5.1.2. Shifting water use
5.1.3. Effluent treatment plants (ETP) for showcasing;
5.2 Importance of rivers and cause of river die
5.3.1 Livelihoods
5.3.2 Extended women’s works
5.4. Human ecology
5.5 Agriculture and land use change
5.5.1 Commercial grass cultivation
5.5.2 Guava as cash crops
5.6 Land water and food security
5.7 Empowering women; opportunities in a crisis
5.8 Mobilizations of community and reclaim of peoples rights
5. 8.1 Reclaim rights:
5.8.2 Government visibility:
5.8.3 Policy and politics
5.8.4 Stakeholders involvement and participations
5.9 Limitation of the study:

Chapter Six
6 Conclusions and recommendations
6.1 Conclusions
6.2 Recommendations


Chapter One

1 Introduction

1.1 Community description

Bangladesh, called the land of people and rivers, has as many as 310 rivers and tributaries flowing through out the country. The Rivers Padma, Meghna, Jamuna, Brahamaputra, Teesta, Surma and Karnaphuli are considered the principal rivers of the country, also called the play land of nature as cyclone, seasonal floods and river erosions are very common.

Figure-1.1: River network in Bangladesh

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: GEOSIS 2011

It is one of the most populated (8th largest) country in the world and population density, at 979 in per sqm is 4th (after the small islands of Singapore, Hong Kong and Bahrain (Wikipedia 2012). The economy and culture are agrarian in nature, except some exceptional boomed in some sector i.e. women employment in garments manufacturing. Agriculture’s contribution in GDP is highest 22% and absorbing largest 48.1% employments of the country. Contrary, manufacturing and industrial contribution in GDP is 17% and no data available of absorbent of labor force (BBS/pk 2009, 2008).

Rivers have traditionally been important to the culture, livelihoods, transportation, irrigation and drinking water source of this deltaic lands people. It was the main communication means in and outside the country until 1970s and total waterways was 24000km, which have reportedly shrunk in to 3800 km at present (the Daily Star, May 16, 2010). The reasons for shrinking of waterways is said to be linked with local, national and regional policy and perceptions to rivers and its importance. Some aspects to be mentioned here are, Indian river- linking project (reducing river flow from the neighboring country), regional policy related to water and environment. In country, government’s policy to quicken communication, economic enhancement, administration and related issues, and sequential undermining of river based livelihoods dependency in the country. Approximately 5% of the total people i.e. fishing, bede/nomadic snake charmers, boatman are exclusively dependent on rivers and other open water bodies (Mallick, field survey 2011). Rivers are still treated as the life line of this flood plain peoples, even though many of the rivers are now seasonal and some are biologically dead (Buriganga, Shytalakha, year).

2. Landscape and Topography

2.1 Landscape

The study village ‘Ghughudia’ is a part of the lower Madhupur Tract and the lower Brahmaputra floodplain. Altogether three broad types of landforms can be identified on the basis of drainage, elevation and pedological characteristics. These are locally known as ‘Chala /Taan /Tek/ Tenguira’ (highland, medium highland), ‘Byde’ (medium high to medium low land), and ‘Naama/Chwak/Chars’ (low land and very low

Figure 1.2: Landscape pattern Ghughudia village

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Mallick, Village survey 2011

The chala lands are normally flood free, relatively less productive for rice but extensively used for vegetable cultivation throughout the year and famous for ‘Jack’ fruit plantations and ‘Shaal’ forests. The ‘Chala’ land is the first choice for permanent infrastructural developments. However, the ‘Chala’ lands are dissected by the ‘Bydes’, which usually remain shallow to deeply flooded three to four months between July and November in the year. The ‘Bydes’ are fertile, rich in clayey soil and mainly used for a single crop, predominantly HYV boro rice. The Naama/low covers the major agricultural lands where prolonged flood waters from Bangshi, Dhaleshwari, and Turag rivers. The regular and seasonal flooding in the monsoon depressed area and flooded for more than five months (June-December) HYV boro rice is cultivated here. The back slopes of the floodplain are used for ‘robi’ and deep water rice. However, ‘robi’ crops are being replaced by guava and commercial grass cultivation in Ghughudia.

Figure 1.3: Landscape position distribution in Ghughudia

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Mallick, Village survey 2011

General land types and descriptions are as 38 percent high land (flood-free), 21 percent medium high land (occasionally flooded), 10 percent medium low land (regularly flooded), 16 percent low land (facing prolonged flooding) and 15 percent are very low land (perennial bodies). Ghughudia along with whole Savar (a sub district) is one of the largest vegetable growers in Dhaka district (Alam and Sakib 2001)

2.2. Topography

Bengal land is comprised of both the recent floodplain and the Pleistocene terraces, the two major geological units of the deltaic Bengal basin. (Morgan and McIntire 1957, Banglapedia) The highest elevation in the country is about 20 m. above mean sea level decrease from north to south. The average altitude is 10-15 m. The Pleistocene terrace that is Mudupur tract highest in Bangladesh and Savar located in eastern part of the greater Madupur and locally known as Bhawal Gaarh.The recent floodplains cover the low lying alluvial flat lands and the extended inundated part during the rainy season (Khan, 1995). And the topography of Ghughudia are both floodplain and the Pleistocene Terraces.

3. Culture and population growth

Different groups, class and caste of peoples live in the village Ghughudia on the bank of river Bangshi. In earlier days people of this village were extremely dependent on Bangshi for agriculture, irrigation, drinking water and fish source and some livelihoods means. Ethnically all are Bangali but there some difference in religious cultural practice that is Muslim and Hindu. According to the village survey, as on everyday basis there are around 5000 people living in this village among them 3800 are Muslim and 1200 Hindu (Mallick, 2012). However according to statistical survey of Bangladesh (BBS 2001, 2008) it was 1863 and male female ratio is 100/96, household size is 4.(four).

Figure 1.4: Ethnic groups

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There are two temples and three mosques for worship and prayer for Hindu and Muslims respectively. There is only one school, up to 10 class education, it is a co-education school, no restrictions in education in regards to caste religions or minority perspective. There is graveyard for Muslim, one cyclone shelter, union health and family planning center and one small Bazar (market) in the village, however, no designated place to cremate Hindus)

3.1 Occupational groups

The major occupational groups in the Bangshi basin area are the potters, Raj Bangshi (fisher folks), Guala (milkmen) Nomo Sudro (Farmer), Bede (nomadic snake charmers), gold smith and boatman. In terms of population size, Hindus are the minority in the village. The numbers of Hindu households in this village are 250, while average household size is 4-6 members. Even though potters and Bede/nomadic snake charmers are not exactly live in geographical boundary of Ghughudia village but importance of river Bangshi to these special occupational groups are high. Such as Bede/nomadic snake charmers use to live in a boat and roam in the river course for their livelihoods and stationed seasonally focus on livelihoods means. The potters use clay from the rivers and use boat to sell pottery in other village and markets.

Figure 1.5: Occupational groups among Hindu

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Mallick, village survey 2011

Ghughudia exemplifies the nationwide water security, river pollution and livelihoods dependency at local level. Water and river polluted by various point and nonpoint sources (industrial waste, household garbage, biological) its also has other impacts that leads to traditional occupational loss. Over time the quality of water in the river and other local resources has been deteriorated, and demand for domestic water uses are increased. Such as during 1980s there were 2-3 tube wells in the village and people usually use river water for their everyday purpose and all other domestic use and tube wells water use for drinking purpose only, whereas as at present 90% household at Ghughudia have their own tube wells and rest 10% share tube well with others. Consequently, ground water levels are dropping every year at Ghughudia and other surrounding village (Mallick, Village survey 2011).

4. Context:

The general economic condition of the area is changing in upwards trend. Inmigration is high, land has become pricey, new internal and external conflicting issue arising both individual and common ground in regards to land, water and environmental aspect. At the same time agricultural land and productivity of the land decreased. Using river water, land becomes toxic and thus working in the paddy fields is irritating and farmer has to count more money and additional labor hours and skin disease are very common and also repotted to burning and irritation while in the filed.

The special economic zone (EPZ) and other local manufacturing company said to created mass employment opportunity in the country and specially for women. Again tapping the women’s natural quality and potentials, more women were employed in this (Garments) sectors compare with men groups.

Figure- 1.6: Savar upaziz (sub district of Dhaka)

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Source: LGED/Local government engineering department

4.1. River Bangshi:

Like many other rivers, Bangshi is pride to the peoples of Ghughudia and many other villages around the river. It is the source of fish, means of employment for traditional and occupational groups (fishing folks, bede/nomadic snake charmers, boatmen). Industries and its subsequent pollution to water just added further complexities, reduces access to common property/river resources.

The 238 km long Bangshi river originated from Brahmaputra-Jamuan river system and begin from the point of Madu pure at Jamal pur district. The Bangshi crosses Maymenshingh, Tangil and at Kaliakur point of Gazipur district, Bangshi enter in to Dhaka district, flow in between Dhamrai and Savar upzila of Dhaka district, Bangshi enter in to Dhaleshwari river down at Savar upzila.

Rivers and human lives are interrelated and interdependent and industries are to add value on natural resources. Further, river’s philosophy is to accept all but not to keep or holds any with her, in course its just distribute every things on two side of its i.e. waste, pollutant but some time too much it and unable to absorbed. Vise-versa industries does not have ability to hold or absorb any things, other than to produces, however, using technological advantage, industries can refine or clean but in general rule industries does not do that in Bangladesh and consequence is polluting rivers, means preventing surface fresh water supply and no longer have fresh fish to catch, eat, and sell, degradation of lands and other local resources. No longer it’s a question that human life will not survive in a healthy way, without the preservation of our natural resources, such as water.

Figure-1.7: Bangshi River

illustration not visible in this excerpt Source: Google earth/courtesy, Department of Geography and Environment, JU

Chapter Two

2. Theoretical Progression and Review of Literature

2.1 Problem statement

Even though industries have high importance for country’s economy, employment and growth, where population is high and land is limited. Economic growth has been given high priority, while the traditional and occupational livelihoods opportunities and environmental consequences have not received similar attention. Eventually ignoring the environmental and cultural impacts negatively affects the economic growth that was sought. The ongoing trend of pollution of rivers is a threat to ecology and environment at both local and national level. The shift in land use, custom and livelihoods patterns seems to have immediate and long term effect on culture and economy such as loss of traditional occupations (fisher, potters and nomadic snake charmers) is not compatible with sustainable development. Again general and specific environment i.e. lose of biodiversity, decreasing ground water table, increase health risk and agriculture production at Ghughudia are in declining trend.

All above, leads to the question of the very survival of peoples’ in Ghughudia and its adjacent village. While the main problems of the country are considered to be “Population and Unemployment”, the “death” of rivers is one of the most serious, if not the most serious problem.

2.2 History and contributing factors

Bangladesh, is predominantly an agricultural country but has a huge 140 million population (BSS 2011) in a small territory. The huge unemployment and growing population has always been a challenge to the government and other relevant stakeholders. It is in this context, during the 1980s the government of Bangladesh adopted new policies to accelerate the country’s economy and employment opportunity by a massive industrialization. The number one strategy for this was to encourage foreign investors and corporations above other considerations such as culture, environment and tradition. This strategy did give some initial benefits for the country as its create some jobs for un skill unemployed youth and 64% of them are female (BEPZA 2008). On the other hand it has opened up and created a new colonial invasion and market for the corporation and their allies.

According to the economic enhancement policy of the country the first EPZ was set up at the port city Chittagong in 1983 followed by second EPZ at Savar in Dhaka near river Bangshi in 1993 (Banglapedia, 2006). As a result a vast area of prime agricultural land has been converted in to non farm usage including build up areas for both housing and uncontrolled development of industrial establishment.

The trends of social and environmental degradation at village Ghugudia and other surrounding village around river Bangshi started during the 1990s. As on today there are 224 industries along with two major export processing zone (EPZ), exclusively meant for export oriented industrial product (Upzila statistic 2012). According to the same source, among those there are chemical, ceramics, medicines and drugs, , leather, dyeing, garments and other heavy and light industries. Moreover, there are 195 brick fields at Savar.

The location of many of these industries either on river/other open water bed and either way drainage it with rivers. Most tend to release hazardous wastes like acids, organic chemicals and solvent of organic wastes, with out treatment- thereby causing serious impact on human life and livelihoods (Hafiz 2010) .

The special industrial zone along with many other local industries began discharging all of their industrial waste into the river and other open water body, undermining the health, environment and livelihoods of the people. Again it is not that, county has no policies and laws, but its seems that their action is occasional. Such as DEPZ is build in a 355.83 acres of land and there are 300 industries are there but its seriously affecting more then 1000 acres of high productive paddy field at Dholai beel (The daily star, May 7, 2009).

Importance of industry as employer in Bangladesh seems to be high at this, moment and it was also high in developed country during 1950s and 1960s but it was declining after 1970s and survey of UN industrial development organization (UNIDO) shows that share of gross domestic production was become half in 95 developed country (Our common future, 1987). Further, shift in jobs towards the service sector has accelerated sharply over the years.

2.3 Theory of Change

Industries at the EPZ area and other at around the rivers are creating employment opportunities, and have improved the economy, however at the same time they are discharging untreated wastes into the river and other open water bodies. Polluting the rivers causes ecological and environmental problems at Ghughudia and other surrounding villages’ of river Bangshi.

Empowering the local community and understanding the perceptions of the people i.e. industry owners and their organization, documentation of local success and perceptions of water pollution and other local resources, is instrumental to communicate with policy makers other high up peoples in the community there after mobilization of people.

With better understanding of the problem (perceptions of people) and facts in hand, there is a better position to argue for other options that are favourable to local communities and business/industry owners.

Essentially, cleaning the river Bangshi will improve food, water and livelihood security at Bangshi Basin area. The occupational livelihoods and environmental condition of the country will improve.

Once the communities, government, industry owners, and individuals come together to restore and repair their water sources, all will benefit. The community will reclaim their livelihoods, poor women in particular will be benefited and their lives will become healthier. Ecology and biodiversity of the area and the river will be restored and will lead to a just and lasting change.

2.4 Research questions

The study was conducted to understand how pollution of river/water impacted culture and livelihoods of peoples in a community and exacerbate water and environmental problems at local level and in the national context. The study focused on the Bangshi river course, the industrialization and special concentration on special economic zone (EPZ, Savar) and Ghughudia village.

The following two research questions were proposed to understand the research issue in a holistic way

- What are the perceptions of different occupational, professional and cultural groups with respect to the river pollution and other local water resources?
- How can different occupational, professional and cultural groups be mobilized to establish rights of the local people with respect to local water resources?

2.5. Review of literature

Pollution of rivers could be natural and anthropogenic (urbanization, industrial and agricultural and increasing exploitation of water resources). However, peoples perception to water and local resource pollution are more social and mobilization of community more on situational and geographically specified, because of demand for local resource and livelihoods occupations and dependency on its varied in community wise.

Even though, river itself has own natural mechanisms to renew at some level but problem exacerbate e when it is too much for human cause and eventually river become as sewerage. According to UN water about 2 million sewerage and other effluents drain in to world water everyday. Further, in developing countries 70% of industrial wastes are dumped untreated in to the waters where they pollute the usable water supply (UN water, 2012).

From time immemorial community sustain with its indigenous and informal organization, the problem arises when exogamous development activities interrupt natural resource base and livelihoods activities and new organizational set up and mobilization required.

The overall water use and needs of water never the less separate from agriculture or irrigation to food processing, the more sophistication of life means more demand of water. The water demand and its uses in Bangladesh are as follows. agriculture 86%, domestic 12% and industry 2% (FAO, Encyclopedia of earth 2007, 2011) while the world trend to agriculture water use is 70% and it is 86% in Bangladesh and for industrial use of water is 2%. (Figure 2.1)

In economic word demand and supply are interdependent but needs are independent Demand can increase or decrease but needs should be addressed accordingly. For example individual need 1,700 cubic meter of water per year for healthy living, but people’s foods and other behavior change with income level can change water demand (Zland 2011),

Figure 2.1: Water use in Bangladesh

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(Source, FAO, Encyclopedia of earth 2011)

Water/river pollution problems are gaining attention worldwide because of its socio-cultural, economic, health, livelihoods and others issue related with degradation of water resources.

In the proposed research it is planned to understand people’s behaviors and perception to water pollution and to proposed better options and management system for sustainable development. In course of population increase and many other development activities, pressure on river/surface water also increase and it is much higher in developing county. Pollution have many point and nonpoint source. A thematic source of pollution shown in figure 2.2

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.2 Pollution Source

(Source; Sharma & Moog 2005, Raj 2010)

Water in general exist in abundance but its distribution in quantity and quality is not equitable globally by nature or for human activities and by nature water is central to human development but its’ always been interrupted due to human behaviors.

2.5.1 Human behavior environmental degradation and stress on water and other local natural resources

Trade and business has historic relation of environmental and ecological degradation. The neoclassical economic development endorsed continues economic development through stimulated trade. However, for sustainability it is must to acknowledge (1) the importance of preserving the identity and integrity of economic systems in different regions of the world through enlarging as much as possible self-sufficiency and equity assessed at national and regional levels; and (2) the importance of including respect for biospheric equilibria as one criterion to be used to regulate world economic activity and trade. North-South trade analysis show that, the true origin of current ecological crisis lies in a deep change in the perception of the relation between humans and nature that affects the mode of technological development of modern society (Mario & Kazo , 2006).

The disappearance of natural resources damages in an area also limits area ability to sustain a population. Often this damage is the result of beneficial activities performed irresponsibly of certain groups of people in the community. Wastewater discharged into an estuary can alter the salinity, affecting the lifecycle of sea grass and fish nurseries. For example, if fishing is a source of income for a community will be seriously affected, because of improper treatment and disposal of wastewater damage natural resources. Degradation of natural resources also has a chain effect, such as if land water degraded production decrease livelihoods, affected the local economy for long (McDilda, 2012). Again, the competition for water and land between industrial and urban user and also within agriculture, i.e. staple crops, non-food crops, livestock and bio-fuel productions and expected climate change altered the patterns of temperature, precipitation and river flows upon which the world’s food production systems also depend. However, to cope up with the change, the technical innovation only can not bring the success its need greater national and regional planning and policy adaptation for success (FAO, 2011).

The over-consumption, population growth, globalization of economic systems and trade, reduction in development assistance, and failure to enact necessary policy, legal, and institutional reforms enacted the global warming and climate has been change. The global water crisis and the global environment crisis are linked and will exacerbate further. Even though world (north-south) are still searching remedy from 1st green revolution and approach to a new green revolution as population increase.

Traditional sector-by-sector approach to economic development is a key contributor to the two global crises. Lessons of experience are presented on policy, legal, and institutional reforms necessary to address the inter-linked crises through integrated approaches to managing land and water resources and their biological diversity. Geographically specific country should address the problem holistically in the context of country’s national sustainable development strategy. Reform water pricing, land tenure, community participation, and institutional reforms are necessary (Alfred M. Duda & Mohamed T. El-Ashry, 009).

Alternatives remain in the community and to some extend its natural or can said to be ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Worldwide, agriculture consumes 70% of total fresh water and source of agriculture watering comes surface or ground level. While the watering for agriculture in developing country is mainly from the surface 90% river or wells (Cai and Rosegrant 2003).

Traditionally farmers are always in research as they have to face many obstacles from seeding to harvest. Farmers of India (Hyderabad) use waste water in their field, while Musi rivers turns into waste water reserve in course of population increase, urbanization and industrial development. The increasing cost and decrease of ground water forced them to use waste water and got success. Farmer usually mixed waste water with ground water for dilution and get maximum yields of their paddy (Stephanie Buechler Gayathri Devi Mekala, 2005). The study of Holbox Island, Quintana Roo State, Mexico, about perception and concern about coastal water pollution, shows that people do not perceive pollution is a problem and like be part of long term water quality monitoring. Community also not like urbanization or more tourists in their area rather they wants to conserve nature and environment of their area for long. Vise-versa peoples perception of development of the local community seems to absent in local and national development policy

Moderate development best suit in the study area and environmental education, public awareness would be the best idea to mobilize people and community. Finally together with the local inhabitants own ideas about how the development of the island should proceed should be incorporate in the policy (Kim Chai Train, Jorge Euan and Maria Luisa Isla (2002).

Peoples perceptions are not static or even universal, in any individual sites peoples have their own definitions of problem and perception. There are two approach to look problem that is ‘etic’ and’ emic’ in etic scientist have the solution and local people does not know any things about the problem in emic local people aware about the problem and taking some measures of the problem. In many case we look for ‘etic’ solution but it is important to understand gap between two system and bridge the gap for sustainable development. Again it is equally important to understand the basis for these differences and how they influence the use of natural resources. The study focus on Tanzania but environmental perception studies are scant else where in other developing countries in the world (Schechambo, Sosoveli, Danielson Kisanga ,1999)

2.5.2. Pollution of water:

The industrial contribution to GDP in Bangladesh is 31.26% (Bangladesh economic survey, 2012) and government expecting more in future and also to strengthen export and employment opportunity in the country. Even though these development approach are helpful in terms of employment and growth aspect but the degradation of environment is huge, pollution of air and water incidences of premature mortality and increases sickness. Further, Bangladesh does not have its own Industrial Pollution Projection System (IPPS) (anonymous). Industrial pollution causes to environmental degradation and water pollution are seems to be unaware in international community. Though, every one in the community affect by pollution but poor are most affected one and become more vulnerable. Production of rice is prime attraction to a poor farmers, while watershed decline 40% in Dhaka over a period of ten years. Further, polluted water seems to related with some specific disease i.e. jaundice, diarrhoea and skin problems. To reduce or control of industrial pollution, emphasis more on technological change or innovation but institutional adjustment and behavioral change of stakeholders involved as well other social factors are important (Marr & Dusgupta, 2009)

The surface/river water quality depends not only human activities it is also the natural one by what river water can be polluted. The climate change issue could be appear as most destructive in regards to water issue world wide where human intervention and natural causes are interrelated (Goulder & Raymond, 2008). Again degradation of water quality or withdrawal of water at any point of upstream have negative affects on user of downstream. The policy alone will not solve many of the degradation issues, but a combination of policy, education, scientific knowledge, planning, and enforcement of applicable laws can provide mechanisms for slowing the rate of degradation and provide human and environmental protection (Peters & nd Meybeck, 2000).

The impact of pollution has also been documented in various way, such as livelihoods dependency, occupation loss, health and agriculture impact and so on. New research and sustainable institution is seems to be relational with environmental sustainability. Water, air and land are being polluted because of human activities that is, disposal of solid and chemical waste in many place on the earth (http://www.escindia.org). Further the sophistication of life, changes nature of waste production over time. Therefore sustainable environment, institutional sustainability and development, enforcement of law in comply with national law i.e. fine to the individual and institutional polluters seems to be worthy (Bacow et al 2007).

The deliberate and actor network theory (ANT), practice and relevance to social impact assessment (SIA) in reference to world commission on dams (WCD), seems that the separation of social and natural is to be done with caution and scientifically, the lay knowledge has to be consider in relation to impact of change (Lockie 2007). There were no evidence of EIA or SIA being done before implementing many of world projects and economic enhancement including EPZ projects in Bangladesh.

The environmental damage in major river systems and increasing population, increases chances of more food insecurity in the society as agriculture remain the predominant water user on earth (Coke et al 2008) further development will be constrained if increased demand for irrigation deprives other users and the river system loses capacity due to pollution or over-exploitation. The behavior and attitude of general people and polluters i.e. industries are factors. The existing policy and policy guidelines for national and international river management and pollution control seems to have inadequacy in control and regulate pollution of rivers. Such as the largest water reservoirs Ganges Brahamaputra is being polluted due to inadequate policy guideline, slow implementations of law, regulations, corruption and unregulated industrialization (Anwar,2012) River culture and livelihoods:

Human civilization and culture origin and developed at river bank area. Endangered rivers threatened the livelihoods of people. Freshwater biodiversity is an important source of food, income, and livelihood security, particularly to rural communities in developing countries. The rapid population growth, economic development and industrialization have led to the unprecedented transformation of freshwater ecosystems and consequent biodiversity loss and last 50 years we make it worst. The 41% of world’s population lives in the river basin under water stressed. Further, climate change threatened to be alter all the rules that river have lived by for thousands of years (Wong, et.al 2007).

Unique riverine system and seasonal variation in Bangladesh widen the livelihoods opportunity of its people. Vise-versa since from the beginning of industrialization in early sixties and its gradual growth seems to be relational with ecological imbalance. The fresh water fisheries makes in valuable contribution to national economy and big sector to traditional occupational people its also a unique parts of Bangladesh culture. The accelerating industrial sector just degraded the environment and water resources such as about 900 various types of industry in the country disposed their waste directly in to river therefore aquatic resources are depleting and undermining the traditional rights of rural population to open access to common property resources (Institute for Environment and Development Studies, 2003)

The rivers and riverine resources have also been important to people for availability of cultivatable fertile land and water, for food production and to meet the domestic needs (Karen et al 2003). Rivers also means for natural waterways for effluent discharge and traditionally the cheapest means of transportation of goods and services (Google, 2012), its also have sacred religious importance to the Hindus, specially to the Indian sub continent and all over the world (Raj, 2010). The fishing community has the link between open water body i.e. river, lake, sea and other open water source and land and adapted to the ecological niche. Through generation to generation with the interaction with open water body and nature, fisher folks have acquired skill and protecting, preserving and using the ecosystems sustainable along with secure livelihoods. Dislocating or displacing them by industrial development leads to perennial conflicts as destroying their livelihoods, social structure and economic welfare (Shanthi and Gajendran 2009)

Dam or embankments at local or international level has relation to livelihoods impact on indigenous and local peoples at large, the conflict on water issue also raises from construction of dam or embankment and water diversification (Hirsch & Wyatt 2004), again existing management and governance system related to water and livelihoods which is not suitable for river/water management at local and international level and proposes how to resolved water conflicts and organize stakeholders on water and livelihood issue. Human intervention and its consequent on water pollution has effect not only environment but also on livelihoods and health of the specific and general people (Ahmed 2009). The pollution of water has been linked to the loss of professions and country’s unemployment (Alam 2008), even though their statements are very general and does not accompanied any facts of specific groups who are most affected by water pollution.

Water and food security are two interrelated issue, in the age of global warming and climate change, food security will be increasingly affected where water scarcity arises; global agricultural water management permits concentration of inputs and provides stability of supply for many key agricultural products. For sustainable agriculture, there is need of appropriate water management (FAO 2008) basin-level water resource management determines the productivity of water related ecosystems including local fish capture and traditional livelihoods. Without some form of water control across the world’s river basins, freshwater lakes and associated aquifers, local, regional and global food and livelihoods security would not be possible (FAO).

2.5.3 Development Industrialization and river/water pollution:

Because of unregulated growth of small scale industries, mostly the leather and textile industries are prime polluters of surface water resources. While the peoples of Bangladesh use to drink surface water but now its highly contaminated by chemical and other waste released from the industries along with bacteria causes for illness and disease of the local people. Even though Government have number of act but their application are not proper and some time overlapping and become ineffective, because institutional weakness or in efficiency of executing authority (Reijenga et.als, 2003)

Industrialization and population density in all over the world has significant impact on water, water level and pollutions i.e. study evidence in two area of Nigeria show that mean pH value of ground water differ with high population and industrialization concentration (Ano & Okwunodulu 2008). Study on Mukesh Beel a large wetland area linked with Turag and Bangshi river basin show that concentrated form of pollution from the industries deteriorated water quality and degraded local natural resources. Its estimated that 30 billion liters of waste water per year from the industries around the beel area enter in to the Mokes beel. Availability of fish decreased over time and traditional fisherman has to search for alternatives employment. Farmers reported to loss of crops yield production and bad taste, because of water use from beel in their plots. There was no water management committee but have local resource management groups in beel area, local and central government involve in management process at different level but not such qualitative change appear in the project area (anonymous, undated).

At upstream of Bangshi (Turag river), water quality and survey of industry was done to assess water quality, industrial survey and community management was proposed. The research documented 374 industries at the area among those 175 were detailed surveyed and its found 65 of those were directly polluting water. Public health is being been seriously affected due to polluted Truag river water and color of the river become black, bad smell spread in the area, availability of fish reduces significantly. Even though it was plan to proposed a community participation and management of the river but was not on board because some animus reasons (BCAS, 2009). It’s said that clustering of industry help to manage and monitor the pollution it does. Vise-versa some time its concentrated the problems more such as at Kaliakur in Gazipur, Bangladesh, called the farm of dying industries and causes huge damage of ecosystem and impacted the livelihoods of local people. Project result show that little care and efficient use of technology and monitoring can make huge differences in economy and environment. The use of ETP is always a big challenge as because of it regular expenditure incurred and fixed cost (SEI, 2003)

Local people in general and particular at river side usually face many forms of natural and environmental hazards i.e. riverbank erosion seasonal floods, dawning in particular to Char/ island area of Bangladesh (Lein, 2009). In addition to natural and environmental hazards plain land river bank people face man made environmental hazards that is industrial pollution and other solid waste. Further structural development at local area also have link to pollution of water and degradation of local environment (Park 1994). The productive activities, human characters and environment have linked, and both are historically and regionally specific as culture and practices at different area are different. Again the economic development i.e. EPZ have link with pollution at local and global level. Hence to improve environment, there is need to policy shift and initiate political reforms (Aubourg 2008). While the[1] political ecology shaped and reshaped the economy and change in property relations also have significant influence on social change and its also seems that world wide land grabbing and expulsion of peasants and property relations are linked with local and global social change (Saturnino et.al, 2012).

All over the world, round the year rivers “have fallen victims to human abuse and neglect in the face of rapid urbanization and industrialization (Lee, 2011). In Bangladesh rapid and unplanned urbanization and industrialization is going on.

2.5.5 Water Rights and Mobilization of Community

The social and economic value of rivers are now recognized and peoples attitudes to river in tropical region has been changed overtime and now people don’t thinks river as some things to drainage. Rather it is a source of livelihoods means for different indigenous and occupational groups (Lee, 2011). Absence of institutional coordination and lack in perceptions of rivers to river managers is a factor to mobilize community and revive of river ecology (Adams et. al 2005). To a meaningful social change and also to ensure entitlement of public rights, there is need of working together of the courts and legal professionals, popular constituencies, the media, civil society organization, academic and sate officials (Greenstein 2007). To revive rivers, there need of efficient use of water and stop waste disposal in to the rivers. Need policy reform and to identify gaps at present and focus on future (Narain, 2010)

The mobilization of community and enforcement of law is requirer to restore peoples water rights, usually the less empowered and economically low income community got less priority, while law enforcement is required to restore environmental rights (Konisky, 2009). To protect or gain water rights, water user groups has to be hands in hand inwardly reinforcing their rights and have to be horizontal and vertical linkage for strategic alliance (Boelens, 2008). However its also mentionable that, the social power that can be mobilized is dependent on the scale or spatial level at which social actors can operate. Consequently, it has to be keep in to consideration that the success or effectiveness of social and political strategies for empowerment is related to the ways in which geographical scale is actively considered and mobilized in struggles for social, political, or economic resistance or change. Further to mobilize community integrated approach that is research, monitoring, academic attachment and involvement of NGO, government institutions is essential (Vincent & Urtega, 2010)

Technology and competitive and comparative learning approach among schools is important to improve water quality in local water channel/rivers. The importance of local and other government institutions and NGOs are instrumental to clean and revive people water rights (Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, 2009). To involve and mobilize village people and most affected community, formation of taskforce at river side village, organize series of meeting, processions and public hearing on river pollution are seems to be effective. The participations of most and directly affected livelihoods groups i.e. traditional fishing folks, washer, boatman along with ecology and biodiversity need to be highlighted (http://www.ecofriends.org)


[1] Political ecology is the study of the relationships between political, economic and social factors with environmental issues and changes. Political ecology differs from apolitical ecological studies by politicizing environmental issues and phenomena (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_ecology)

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River, Culture and Livelihoods: Water Pollution and Social Change Around the River Bangshi, Bangladesh
Water pollution and social change
Future Generations Graduate School
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river, culture, livelihoods, water, pollution, social, change, around, bangshi, bangladesh
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Shahid Mallick (Author), 2012, River, Culture and Livelihoods: Water Pollution and Social Change Around the River Bangshi, Bangladesh, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/208986


  • guest on 5/7/2013

    It is indeed a descent work, hard endeavor and facts finder for readers as well as researchers. I feel happy and proud of our friend Shahid Mallick- and wishing him continuous success.

  • guest on 4/5/2013

    My friend Shahid Mallick's great achievement. Wish him all success.........

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