Agriculture remains the most valuable sector of the Bangladeshi economy. Contributing 14.23% to the national GDP and employing 40.6% of the population, (According to the Fiscal year 2020). Haor is closely associated with the agricultural field.
A haor is a unique freshwater ecosystem of Bangladesh. The haor area is situated in the vast floodplains of the Meghna river basin. Bangladesh’s haor region is located near the hills of Meghalaya’s and Assam of India. Quite a few haors of various sizes are here. Prominent haors of Bangladesh included- Tanguar Haor, Hakaluki Haor, Hail Haor, Saneer Haor, Dekhar Haor, Kawadighir Haor, Dibir Haor.
During monsoon, with endless flowing water haor looks like a vast sea. Various aquatic plants species grow in haor with new water. Lotus, Water lily, Star lotus, Asian water moss, White water snowflake, Duck lettuce, Hydrilla, Water caltrop are one of the aquatic plants in haor. These plants are providing oxygen in the water and maintaining the wetland’s natural balance. In the presence of sunlight, they survive by producing energy from inorganic materials and provide necessary food and shelter for other animals. So, haor is a brimming animal kingdom that is full of various animals like fish, shrimp, snail, clam, etc.
For changing seasons, haor water decreases and it becomes a safe habitat for birds. Thousands of birds from diverse place, including Siberia, migrate to various haors to survive winter harshness. After winter, the migratory birds return to their breeding ground. Besides birds, diverse amphibian, reptile and mammal are seen in the vast haors. So, haors are ecologically quite enriched area.
Migratory Birds, Tanguar Haor in Bangladesh [ Credit: Canva]
Haor’s beauty attracts innumerable tourists. For the wilting aquatic plants, haor soil grows fertile. The fertile soil grows golden crops. So, haor regions have high economic significance. And haor economy largely depends on a balanced environment and haor biodiversity.
However, meeting and growing population’s demand, more and more natural resources have extracted from haor. There are natural disasters also. So increasingly, the haor ecosystem becomes threatened. There are many reasons why the haor areas are under threat. Here are some of the reasons-
Climate Change: Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. Due to its location between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh often faces natural disasters. Climate change accelerated the occurrences of salinity, storms, drought, irregular rainfall, high temperature, flash floods that result in crop losses. These problems have predicted to be more acute in future due to sea-level rise.
Sea level rise affects agriculture by salinity intrusion, flooding, and increasing cyclone frequency and its depth of damage. As a result, the production of agriculture decreases by the unavailability of freshwater, soil degradation and germination rate of some plants. Floods are a major cause of damage to agriculture. Every year floods have visited Bangladesh and there occurs a massive loss of human life.
Population Growth and Loss of arable land: Bangladesh is an overpopulated country as we know. The growth rate of the population has been increasing uncontrollably every year. They demand more foods, education, health, accommodation, environment to fulfil their basic needs. Farmers and local cattle are suffered from a shortage of their food and also their cattle.
As a result, they meet their needs by cutting down trees, hills and filling up arable land randomly. Urbanization, river erosion, human settlement, the building of infrastructure are responsible for the loss of arable land. Besides, people in the haor area become poor repeatedly by losing their property due to wind action, early flood damage over crops, inundation of homestead, an insufficient number of flood shelters. The loss has become very alarming for our country and its economy.
Illiteracy: Haor plays vital roles in biodiversity. The haor inhabitants mainly rely on Aman and Boro crops and fishing. Farmers of Bangladesh are not well educated. During the monsoon, haors are rich in aquatic plants and animals, so the local people fish freely at any time. So fish production is reduced and growth is disrupted. In winter, they hunt migratory birds. Due to their ignorance and illiteracy, the biodiversity of haor is at threat.
Use of fertilizer in agriculture: Farmers use many pesticides and fertilizer like urea, phosphorous, potassium, nitrogen to save crops from many pests and disease. Imbalanced use of fertilizer decreases the crops and pollutes freshwater. So the aquatic plants and animals have faced many difficulties to live.
Unfair price of agricultural produces: The agricultural income is very low, mainly due to the low productivity of agriculture, the lake of diversification of cropping activities, and the exclusive marketing system. Farmers have forced to sell their products at low prices to intermediaries. Since the farmers do not get adequate wages for their crops, they are losing interest in their work. So, they are leaving agriculture and running for the industry. As a result, the contribution of agriculture to the economy of Bangladesh is decreasing day by day. Adequate management of haor is required to protect the biodiversity of the haor.
Impact on Haor region [ Image: Author]
.Although ‘The Department of Bangladesh Haor and Wetland Development’ has been formed for haor management. The organization is working to ensure the sustainable use of haors’ natural resources. Many non-government initiatives are also ongoing for haor management. However, though these activities contribute to haor biodiversity conservation, they are not enough.
So, we have to be more active in haor management. It is essential to control population growth, protection of arable land, mitigation to climate change, literate the people and give the fair price of produces through the people of the haor area. Timely actions need to be taken for haor biodiversity conservation.
We need to determine the effects of infrastructures, built by various organizations, on the haor environment and seek a possible solution. Simultaneously, an environment must be prioritized in all haor development activities. Haor management can advance only with the active participation of the local people. Only proper management can ensure haor biodiversity conservation and economic development.
The author is a student of Environmental Science and Engineering, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh.