The Freshwater Ecosystem and Food Production
Land resources in Bangladesh may be defined according to their degree of inundation. Only 34% of the land area is above
the level of inundation, so as much as 66% of Bangladesh's land area can be considered as a potential wetland zone. This
provides a large potential habitat for SIS and other indigenous fish species.
Bangladesh: Distribution of Land According to Degree of Inundation
Land above normal inundation
Land normally inundated up to
MH1= inundated up to 30 cm deep
MH2= inundated up to 90 cm deep
Land normally inundated up to 90-180
Land normally inundated up to 180-300
Land normally inundated deeper than
Such a high degree of inundation is seen by many as a major constraint to food production and rural development. In order
to increase the area available for HYV agriculture and to reduce the negative impacts of flooding, various projects have been
implemented to regulate the flow of water in the rivers and over the floodplains.
The Flood Action Plan (FAP) of Bangladesh has been a major donor supported project, designed to transform large areas of
Bangladesh's floodplain into dry agricultural land. This development is also promoting a change in the access and property
regime, and is establishing a new hierarchy of land owning people. Landless people who have traditionally relied on open
access to common property floodplain resources for subsistence fishing and cultivation are finding themselves excluded. The
new regime therefore, as well as having a major impact on Bangladesh's aquatic ecosystem, also has serious implications
for the rights to livelihood and food security for large numbers of landless households.
The kinds of projects they are involved in, and the physical changes associated with them include:
• The construction of embankment and drainage facilities through Flood Control & Drainage (FCD) projects which
has made land flood-free. This prevents water from entering the land, as well as not allowing quick drainage of
water accumulated inside the embanked area.
• Submersible embankments to delay flooding in the deeply flooded areas of northeast region.
• Dams, closures, barrages, regulators across the rivers as in case of the Feni river in Noakhali; the Lohajang river in
Tangail; regulator across Gorai river at its confluence with river Padma in Charghat, Rajshahi and the dam across
Kumar river at its confluence with Kaliganga river in Jhenidah district.
The impact of measures undertaken by the Flood Control Projects on freshwater fisheries, particularly SIS, include:
• Overall fish production within the project area decreased by over 35% within two years of operation of flood control
measures in Chandpur Flood Control & Irrigation Project.
• Eighteen fish of migratory species of tidal/estuarine origin can no longer enter South Dakatia river and into the
floodplain. Thus catch rates have been drastically reduced in the freshwater capture fishery.
• A study carried out under the FAP (FAP 6, 1993) in the north eastern region of Bangladesh documented the fishery
dynamics on the floodplain. During the rainy season the entire floodplain, rivers and khals become a single water
body. Fish are widely dispersed, and people have open access to fishing. The replacement of productive open