Single post

Conflicts around Water Management Infrastructure: Exploring Different Perspective of Stakeholders to Create Area of Cooperation

Conflicts analysis and resolution through empirical study is completely a new sense for me Just like Khulna city as I never been to there. As a new team member in the research project titled ‘Climate Policy, Conflicts and Cooperation in Peri‐Urban South Asia: Towards Resilient and Water Secure Communities’, I grasped the idea of the ongoing research project theoretically from existing documents. As a part of research work I had been to the field site of Khulna and interviewed stakeholders of different level and power to understand the situation under investigation primarily from the insiders’ perspective. Practical experience was far different that it was presumed by studying former documents. Diverse lenses of perspectives around a conflict issue from different stakeholders was found while interviewed individually. It motivates me to think about different facets of a phenomenon from a neutral standpoint.

Khulna city residing around 1.3 million people in the south-western part of Bangladesh, has been identified as one of the most vulnerable coastal cities to climate change impacts. Livelihoods and ecosystem sustenance of urban and peri-urban of Khulna are predominantly depended on the Rupsha-Bhairab and Mayur river and their tributary hydrological network. The Mayur river plays an important role in providing irrigation water for peri-urban agriculture, predominant livelihood option of peri-urban Khulna as it is the only major freshwater. Alutala sluice gate at outfall of the Mayur river is a piece of water management infrastructure constructed by Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) in the 1980s as part of Khulna city protection embankment system from tidal surges and water logging. Currently the gate is being operated by a committee constructed by the Khulna City Corporation (KCC). Water crisis among the users arise from the mismanagement of the gate operation and different stakeholder have diverse perception on actual procedure of the gate operation.

“Alutala sluice gate do not stands for our advantage in either way.” said by Mr. Omar, a farmer of Tentutala village where the sluice gate is placed. He explained that in dry season sluice gate operator allows saline water in the Mayur river which destructs crop cultivation and fisheries. Again, there is no way to keep the gate close as urban wastewater dumped into the river, dilution of which by allowing saline water is mandatory. Otherwise, wastewater pollutes the river water and make it unusable for any kind of use (agriculture, fish breeding, domestic etc.). Expressing opposition to this statement of the community people, Education Officer of KCC and Secretary of Alutala sluice gate operation committee (GOC) Mr. S.K.M. Tasafuzzaman stated that, GOC operates the gate by keeping optimum balance between the need of both urban and peri-urban users. Even sometimes community people urge to allow saline water so that it could wash away urban waste water and impede proliferation of hyacinth and mosquitoes.  Farmers and fishermen of Tentultala village claim that they are the worst sufferer from unfair operation of the Alutala sluice gate as the GOC (including the gateman paid by KCC) is solely concerned about the need of urban people. According to the community people the committee is consists of only with the personnel of KCC while interviewed personnel of KCC proclaims that the committee contains local governmental representatives from community according to administrative designation. The peri-community also said that their allegations are not given importance by the higher authority, so they stop complaining whereas, KCC the main operating authority assumes everything is working smoothly so that no complain arise from the influence zone of sluice gate operation. Actually, a huge knowledge and communication gap between two parties exists there. Community people are not even cognizant about the exact practice of the gate operation and maintenance.

Although stakeholders’ perspectives are different on conflict emerging issues all of them suggest installation of wastewater treatment plant to resolve the conflict. Community people also claim for further tube well installation by DPHE as existing ones are inadequate to meet their domestic water need and competition for water collection lead to further conflicts. They also suggest for river excavation. Fishermen and farmers, two major livelihood communities are adapting with the averse situation by either by changing their profession or pattern of crop cultivation. However, respective institutional personnel while asked about their views on this forced transformations of livelihood options answered that the community may found the alternative livelihood options more lucrative with the changing market demand and increased cost of crop production.

Community people of Alutala in support with NGO activist and mass media protested against the wastewater dumping into the Mayur River in 2012. The movement was not effective in terms of resulting any ultimate solution of urban waste management issue and sluice gate operation. However, according to the community people their only acquirement from the movement is shut down of the tannery (a major source of urban waste water) at Gollamari. But, according to the government officials responsible for both gate operation and urban waste management the closure of tannery was solely due to business loss rather than influence of the public outcry. Main problem is the conflicts of interests around the water need among different stakeholders.  From the lens of an NGO activist Mr. Alamgir Islam Lavlu, the conflicts arise from the illegal canal grabbing by the urban elite which were used for shrimp cultivation and landfilling for extending urban area. He said that shrimp cultivation that requires saline water and the gate was being operated on their favor as they were more influential than the poor farmers and fisherman. So, conflicts of interest were being kept arising. He said that it needs to identify the different user of the Mayur river then categorize their water need and depending on that gate operation should be maintained. KDA is planning for new residential area and liner park on the bank of Mayur river. As are the city development planner their plan should be made by keeping river hydrology in mind.

Conflicts around the Alutala sluice gate operation still prevailing there. Our research team attempt to explore the dynamics of existing conflicts through assessment of multidimensional perceptions of different stakeholders and trying to figure the possible area of cooperation out as a neutral spectator. When people have the freedom in expressing their own perception without any social or political pressure their genuine viewpoint on the specific issue comes out easily. Interviewing separately the people having different interest around the water management infrastructure use and operation, their actual view was unveiled. It was a great experience for me to explore the history of conflicts that rise around use of a water management infrastructure. While interviewing stakeholders of different power and class, it was found they conceive different perception on the same issue. This difference in perception is also a barrier of their mutual understanding that may promote conflicts and limits the opportunity of cooperation. If exact facts that contributing in conflict provocation could be identified and communication gaps among the stakeholders could be filled up, it will help to deal with conflict resolution.

By Israt


Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.