Improving water management in coastal polders of Bangladesh: Recommendations from the local government officials

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Polders in Bangladesh’s coastal areas safeguard agriculture, a crucial aspect of local livelihoods. However, farmers face significant challenges in water management, infrastructure, and governance.

Recent discussions with local government officials in Barguna district and Amtali upazila pinpoint water management as the primary obstacle to agricultural development. Workshops held in Barguna and Amtali brought together representatives from various government agencies, financial organizations, and NGOs to discuss these challenges.

Part of a continuous study by the CGIAR Initiative on Asian Mega-Deltas, the workshops were organized by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Bangladesh and the United International University (UIU). The study aims to develop practical recommendations for improving the water management system in polders 43/2F and 34/2P, thereby enhancing livelihoods for farmers and water users. Workshops in Barguna and Amtali compiled recommendations to improve institutional resilience and support water management system improvement.

There were recommendations for the need of collaboration between different agencies, such as the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), and Livestock Department to address water management issues were continuous from previous workshops.

Barguna’s Deputy Commissioner, Md. Rafiqul Isam, emphasized supporting BWDB, the primary water management agency, which faces challenges in providing effective service. Although DAE has the necessary resources to directly reach farmers, organizations often struggle due to insufficient funding. For improved efficiency, BWDB needs to prioritize its work and collaborate with the Department of Agriculture Extension, Department of Fisheries, and Department of Livestock. Effective water management can contribute to increased agricultural development, job opportunities, and women’s empowerment.

Extending on his recommendations, Dr. Abu Sayad Md. Jobaidul Alam, Deputy Director of DAE, Barguna, highlighted the importance of technical knowledge as it is crucial to understand the design of the sluice gates, including the length, width, and height of the embankments, as well as the precise amount of land that would be under cultivation.

The Upazila Level Workshop in Amtali echoed these points, emphasizing technical support for water management groups and increased women’s involvement. The need for joint efforts by BWDB and DAE for comprehensive water management was also highlighted.

Revamping policies at higher government levels for resolving water management issues was also discussed during the workshops. Properly constituted committees with clearly defined roles for responsible agencies were suggested to streamline water management processes and ensure accountability. Similar recommendations emerged in Amtali, focusing on assigning clear management responsibilities for Water Management Groups (WMGs) to government agencies.

Both workshops highlighted the need to address illegal activities by local influential people. Influential individuals exploiting canals, sluice gates, and water resources require intervention from higher authorities.

Financial constraints also emerged as a challenge, with BWDB representatives highlighting the lack of manpower and funding for polder management. Timely allocation of funds is crucial for repairing infrastructure and effective water management activities. Administrative cooperation was emphasized to address the illegal use of canals and sluice gates.

WMG representatives stressed the importance of preventing water pollution and maintaining clean canals through regular cleaning and re-excavation, requiring both technical support and administrative cooperation.

These workshops highlighted the multifaceted nature of water management challenges in the 43/2F polder. Collaborative efforts and policy reforms, incorporating these recommendations and actively involving stakeholders, can significantly improve water management practices. This will ultimately benefit agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and ensure a sustainable water supply for the community.

The workshops involved key stakeholders, including district officers from various agencies like BWDB, BADC, Fisheries, Livestock, LGED, BRDB, Krishi Bank, as well as WMG and WMA members.

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