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Benefits of Community Managed Wetland Habitat Restoration: Experimental Results from Bangladesh

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Rahman, Mukhleshur; Islam, Anisul; Halder, Sachindra; Capistrano, Doris
Conference: Crossing Boundaries, the Seventh Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Conf. Date: June 10-14
Date: 1998
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1879
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): IASC
land tenure and use
action research
fishing gear
Abstract: "Bangladesh, a floodplain deltaic country, has a rich and diverse aquatic resource base with over 300 species of fish and shrimps and numerous other flora and fauna which provide sustenance and livelihood for millions of rural households. Fish alone provides essential nutrients and 80% of the animal protein consumed by the country�s 111 million people. Over the centuries, the fish community in Bangladesh�s floodplain ecosystem has adjusted to the plasticity of the aquatic environment. The seasonal expansion and contraction of floodplain waters through rain and flood water ingress and egress via numerous natural channels, form the basis for reproduction, growth and stability of riverine - floodplain fish populations. Unfortunately, ill - conceived human interventions which have overlooked the importance of common property open capture fisheries, have jeopardised the complex fisheries, altered and degraded fish habitats, and impeded natural recruitment of fish!!, resulting in loss of fish yield and biodiversity. In turn this has negatively affected the nutrition and livelihood of millions of floodplain dwellers. Past fisheries development projects in the country have either emphasized the socio-economic development of fisher communities with little regard to fisheries management, or promoted fisheries enhancement through the introduction of fast - growing exotic fish species. No serious attempt was made to improve fish habitats, or encourage ecologically - sound fisheries management involving affected communities. "To test the viability of an ecologically - based method of floodplain fisheries management, a grassroots level intervention aimed at community - based fish habitat restoration and management was initiated in late 1994 in a wetland in north - central Bangladesh. The project activities included participatory planning with villages around the wetland to identify problems and work out possible solutions, particularly conservation measures with the least potential for adverse impacts on the existing social relations and on the local environment. Possible management interventions were identified through a series of open community consultation meetings and participatory appraisals supplemented by preliminary surveys. The interventions, as decided and agreed by the community along with the project team, included desilting a channel to reestablish a link between the wetland and the nearby river to facilitate migration of fish between river and floodplain, restrictions on harmful !!fishing gears for a limited period, and establishing small fish sanctuaries which the community volunteered to protect. "All the project activities have been planned and executed with community participation through a local Project Implementation Committee (PIC) formed during an inter - village meeting at the start of the project. The PIC consists of 31 members representing traditional fishers, landless laborers, farmers, local leaders and professionals, and project staff. The elected local government administrator serves as adviser to the PIC. "The paper presents the findings of the project based on data gathered through participatory social and biological monitoring during the year preceding (year 1) and the two consecutive years (years 1 and 3) following intervention. The data show an increase in fish species diversity, yield and household fish consumption. Comparison of pre-and post-intervention data shows an increase in the yield (total fish catch) from 3,932 kg to 17,404 kg in seasonal and perennial and wetlands including ditches and ponds, from year 1 to year 2. In the third year, the yield was 11,140 kg, which was about three times higher than the yield during the pre-intervention period. There was a dramatic increase in the catch of major carps from 33 kg to 1,597 kg in the second year and 1,603 kg in the third year; and that of large catfish form 1 kg to 776 kg in the second year and 357 kg in the third year. The number of fish species recorded increased form 46 to 64."

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