Flood Risks Management in the Haor Region: A study of Local knowledge and Institutional Interventions


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In terms of proportion of risks of total area, Bangladesh is one of the most flood prone
countries in the world. Seasonal flood is a common phenomenon all over Bangladesh but
Flash flood is regular and common only in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh including
haor area. The Sunamganj district is one of the poorest areas in Bangladesh, mainly as a
result of the occurrence of flash floods in addition to regular floods. Because of being
subject to longer and more intense floods than elsewhere in Bangladesh, the areas taken
in this study are villages of Sunamganj Shadar Upazila, viz Umednagar, Moukhula and
Mahmudpur which, among other villages of Sunamganj Sadar, are very much vulnerable
to frequent flash floods. Remoteness and isolation of the haor localities make these
villagers vulnerable to get government services regarding flood or other natural disasters.
The haor people try all their effort to cope up with flood. They have some unique local
knowledge to cope with flood risks management.

In this study, an attempt has been made to comprehensive study of local knowledge of
haor people, who apply it to survive with flood risks management along with the
arrangement of institutions in haor area providing services regarding flood management.
The research also tried to prepare a list of suggestions for the effective institutional
arrangement in haor area so that poor haor people can get services regarding flood
effectively and timely. These objectives have been achieved mainly through
Questionnaire survey, Focused Group Discussion and key informant interview methods.
Different computer programs such as MS word, Ms Excel and GIS, adobe Photoshop are
used to prepare the thesis.

The major findings of the research reveal that every year flash flood particularly 15 to 20
days before harvesting period is a dangerous event in the life of haor people. Frequent
flash flooding causes extensive damage to crop, life and properties. Regular flash floods
seriously damage rice crops as they occur in March-April when the winter rice is semi
ripe, two to three weeks before harvest time. The study finds out that the haor people rely on some unique indigenous knowledge to cope with flood risks. It is important for
haor people to save their mono crop boro from flood water. To do so they build
submersible embankments every year before flooding. To get early warning, river
behavior along with gloomy sky and south-directed wind are highly effective symptoms
as per the maximum respondents. During flood, high and strong wave hit the homestead
land eroded a mentionable part of homesteads land. Most of the poor people use bamboo
fence with chailla ghash (Phyllanthus reticulatus) beside the homesteads land to protect
their homesteads land from high wave. The rich people of haor area prepare brick wall
beside the homesteads land to protect the homesteads land from wave.

In the study areas, Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), the only mandated
government institution, saves crops of 1000 Crore taka per year by building submersible
embankment in haor areas of Sunamganj. Although Local Government and Engineering
Department and Project Implementation Office have some programs to manage flood
risks but their role is negligible in remote haor areas. There are some NGOs working to
manage flood risks in remote area. However, NGOs working in Haors flood protection
and mitigation related programs and projects are observed to be better-equipped and
capable of responding to flood situation. In the rural areas, local government institution
only exists at the Union level. However, it is a well-known fact that Union Parishad is an
organization of poor resource. They are again handicapped in the way that they can only
spend their funds in certain areas specified by the central government and the current’
flood protection and mitigation do not fall under those categories.

Haor people are poor and vulnerable. They are mostly deprived, distressed and destitute.
Although there was no dearth of prescription from the government and policy makers,
haor people always remained excluded from the mainstream. The research expected that
the findings and suggestions of the research could be important sources to guide the
institutions to undertake any types of projects and policy formulation regarding flood
risks in haor areas. The proposed institutional structure will also be a model to manage
flood risks for all over the haor region.

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