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Bhobodoho Water Logging in Jessore, Bangladesh

Devastating water logging in southern Bangladesh keeps at least one million people under water for years. Due to hydrological complexities, the problem, caused by structural interventions funded by ADB and USAID, remains unresolved.


Due to three ill-planned structural interventions created by the Coastal Embankment Project (CEP), Khulna Coastal Embankment Rehabilitation Project (KCERP) and Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project (KJDRP) Projects, prolonged and catastrophic water logging has been caused in three Upazillas of Jessore namely Manirampur, Keshabpur, and Abhaynagar. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Bhobodoho Water Logging in Jessore, Bangladesh
Location of conflict:Jessore
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Live Animals
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

The districts of Jessore and Khulna situated at the south-western part of Bangladesh are affected by saline waters of the adjacent coastal water courses. During the decade of the 60s, under the CEP funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), polders were created in/along the coastal region of the Country to protect the region from being flooded with saline water and bring more lands under cultivation. It is reported that under the CEP, 2000 miles long embankment, 780 sluice gates and 92 polders were constructed effectively enclosing most of the tidal wetlands within high embankments. Of the 92 polders of CEP, 16 polders are in the Khulna, Jessore and Satkhhira districts including polders 24 and 25 which are in Jessore.

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Project area:100,600
Level of Investment:32,650,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:Around one million
Start of the conflict:24/10/2005
Relevant government actors:Ministries of Water Resources, Land, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, Environment and Forest, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock; Director General and Deputy Director (Khulna), Department of Environment; Divisional Commissioner, Khulna; Chairman, Bangladesh Water Development Board; Deputy Commissioner, District of Jessore; Divisional and Superintendent Engineer, Bangladesh Water Development Board, Khulna and Jessore District; Upazilla Nirbahi Officers, Abhaynagar, Manirampur, Keshabpur Upazilas of Jessore District
International and Finance InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB)
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (USAID) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)
Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST)
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Informal workers
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsDrowning is common when water logging persists for a long period
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Negotiated alternative solution
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Development of alternatives:The structural solutions offered by the KJDRP miserably failed to address the issue of water logging/drainage congestion of the project area. On the contrary, the situation got worsened and vast land of the project area covered under polder 24 comprising 27 beels (large depression area) and at least 144 villages in the Abhaynagar, Keshabpur and Monirampur Upazilla started experiencing unprecedented water logging for indefinite period as natural drainage channels got silted and the sluice gates set up under the projects lost efficacy due to increased siltation and evidently no effective dredging.
In 1997, local people introduced a process called Tidal River Management (TRM) and tested the same in Keshabpur under Jessore. Under TRM approach, tidal water enters only in one tidal basin developed in a suitable beel with dykes and closures and deposits huge amount of silt that fills the bed of the beel in 3-4 years. They removed embankment encircling the Beel Bhaina in Keshabpur to allow tidal flow of water into the beel area. The TRM introduced by local people significantly reduced the water logging problem in Keshabpur and helped raising the land level of the beel with siltation.
This approach enhanced the scope for mitigating drainage congestion and people recommended that new TRM should be established every 3-4 years on a rotating basis to ensure that water congestion of all areas are resolved by raising level of beel areas through sedimentation.
Unfortunately, adamant position of BWDB against interference with existing structures and absence of firm commitment from the government agencies to pay compensation to land owners whose lands shall be under water for at least three years to allow TRM led to no agreements on TRM in new areas including in beel Khukshia, Kapalia and Baruna.
As water logging took a severe form in 2005, local people started writing to the government actors to remove water from their villages, homestead, academic institutions, roads and all other infrastructure and also to protect their lives, properties, safety and health from the curse of such water logging attributable solely due to the unplanned structural interventions of KJDRP and other previous projects. They also appealed to the government to compensate them for the financial loss sustained due to the waterlogging. The demands from the people were considered in a meeting on 25.11.2005 that in the presence of three concerned members of Parliament decided that the situation would be handled on an emergency basis like war situation and that siltation from Sree-Hari-Teka rivers would be removed to drain out water to enable people to cultivate boro crop. Unfortunately, the situation was not handled as promised and people, having not received any effective and adequate administrative reliefs, under the banner of Progoti Samajkallyan Sangstha (Progress Social Welfare Agency) approached two national level NGOs on 04-04-2006 to take their grievances to the High Court. A Public Interest Litigation was filed by two NGOs in the form of Writ Petition (No. 7123 of 2006). The Court on 13-08-2006 directed the government actors to provide all services, products, goods and supports required to ensure that that the affected villagers are safely located and are receiving food, water, medicine and other essentials during the period of water loggings. The Court also directed pumping out of water from the affected villages for ensuring recession of water logging.
The High Court also required the government to show cause as to why they shall not be directed to form an appropriate committee to permanently solve the problem of water logging in the three Upazillas of Keshabpur, Manirampur, and Abhaynagar.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Although the High Court Division gave a set of interim orders and the government took initiative for TRM in some of the beels, the initiative stopped as the local people demanded compensation for TRM that keep their lands under water for a certain period of time and hence render the same unproductive. The water logging situation aggravated in the years 2008, 2014 and 2016 and people are yet to be freed permanently from the same.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh; the Embankment and Drainage Act 1952; Bangladesh Water Development Boards Order, 1972 repealed later by Bangladesh Water Development Board Act, 2000; Water Resource Planning Act 1992; Canals Act 1864; Irrigation Act 1876; Agricultural and Sanitary Improvement Act 1920; Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995 and the Environment Conservation Rules of 1997 made thereunder; Local Government (Union Parishads) Ordinance, 1983
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Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Newspaper Link
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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Other documents

Bhobodaho Court Order
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Bhobodaho Water Logging
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Bhobodaho Water Logging
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Bhobodaho Water Logging
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Bhobodaho Pictures
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Meta information
Contributor:Syeda Rizwana Hasan, BELA, [email protected]
Last update09/01/2019
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