Food security and surface water management has become a critical need in Bangladesh because of growing demand of food and water. With vision of enhancing food production and employment generation, Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) Bangladesh gets involved at local level surface water management in 1962. As an apex public organization, LGED performs overall planning and management of surface water at local level by confirming people participation. With past experience, LGED started participatory Small Scale Water Resources Development Sector Project (SSWRDSP) in 1995 and built about 580 sub-projects where stakeholder’s involvement in decision making process has become an integral part of sustainable development in surface water management.
The purpose of the paper is to explore the potential contributions of sustainable surface water management in socio-economic development through food production and employment generation at the rural level. It reviews relevant external secondary data sources and internal SSWRDSPs which include sub-project based field data obtained for formulation, implementation, and performance evaluation of SSWRDSPs. Primary sources included extensive field visits, household survey and sub-project beneficiary and Water Management Cooperative Association (WMCA) interviews. Transcripts of field visit, field notes, and relevant literature are analyzed on the basis of themes, patterns and data’s of interrelationships among those that addressed the research goal. To ensure true reflection, quantity and quality of data gets highest degree of priority. It is found that well-designed management of surface water resources is vital and essential in ensuring food security and rural employment.
Peoples in the developing countries are in emergency of essentials—food and water, shelter, energy and health although the scenario is quite opposite in the developed nations where the people are facing the difficulties of affluence (Roome, 2002).To attain the food demands of 2050, food production is needed to increase by 3 times. Historically agricultural production is the most suitable way of food production and only that can provide better diets for the people all over the worlds (Avery, 2002).To meet the controversy on the sustainable way of food production this paper tried to established that the participatory approach in surface water management is the most sustainable way of using surface water to increase agricultural production as well as the food production for the future. Now, sustainable food production as well as food for everyone’s is a global demand.
A rising population of Bangladesh with declining agricultural land has put the country’s future food security at risk, especially when salinity in the coastal belt, and droughts and depleting underground water level in the north have become constant realities (Palma, 2010). According to a projection of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics the country’s population will be 170 million by 2020 (BBS, 2001; Population Council, 2010).
Bangladesh currently has 8.44 million hectares of cultivable land, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. With 1 percent decrease of arable land due to building of new houses, industrialization, and urbanization — the cultivable land area will come down to a little more than 7.0 million hectares in 2020 (MoA, 2007a). Bangladesh had to import nearly 2.0 million tons of food grains in the last fiscal year on top of around 30 million tons of rice and wheat produced domestically (Palma, 2010). These factors might lead to a decrease in productivity as was projected by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007).
Though presently the situation of food security appears quite satisfactory, but the scenario was significantly different in past and also its future may not look the same due to increasing population and climatic changes. In 1971-1972 the area under rice production was 9,278.00 thousand hectare and the production was 9889.20 thousand metric ton (BBS, 2008). Due to different initiatives by the government through different organization such as Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) and the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) cultivable areas and production increasing day by day such as in 2005-2006 the rice production areas augmented into 10, 529.09 thousand hectare and the production increased into 24, 569.27 thousand metric ton (MoA, 2007b; BBS, 2008).
Past experience can be argued that those achievement due to better surface water management — preservation and use of surface water, training of farmers to address the depletion of underground water. Otherwise, it was and will be difficult to ensure food security for the ever increasing population (Palma, 2010). However, it is stated that Bangladesh faces some significant challenges in the next century. A combination of population growth, a reduction of arable land and the increasing living standards, will place pressure on food and water security in the country (Khoo, 2010).
Brundtland commission (1987) stated that the sustainable food production is the production which should meet the needs and desire of the people without negotiating with the natural resource for the next generation (Roome, 2002). In this light, Participatory approaches in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) for agriculture can be focused as the most sustainable eco-friendly farming as well as sustainable surface water management and food production system. The soil and Water Conservation Society of America stated that the Agricultural farming through surface water management is the most sustainable food production method as it has a unique capability of keeping the soil fertile without remarkable erosion by integrated management system (Avery, 2002). More steps for sustainable food production can be taken as the food production system does not create any negative impact on the environment (Heap, 2002). Moreover, in the face of rapidly changing national, regional and global economic environment, Bangladesh agriculture is facing the challenge to reinvent itself to withstand competition and at the same time continue to provide food and employment opportunities for the vast majority of the population (MoA, 2006).
1.1 Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) and its Involvement
The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), whose origin dates back to the Rural Works Programme (RWP) initiated in the early 1960s, developed rapidly throughout the 1980s and 1990s. RWP was a component of the Comilla Model of rural development pioneered by the famous Aktar Hamid Khan at Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) nationwide – this was started in the early 1960s (Rahman, Rahman & Rahman, 2007). In 1982 RWP switched to the Works Programme Wing (WPW) under the Local Government Division (LGD) of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development & Co-operatives (MoLGRD&C) (MoLG, 1982). Subsequently the administrative decentralization act of 1982 converted it into the Local Government Engineering Bureau (LGEB) in 1984 (MoLGRDC, 1984). With the needs for rural infrastructure development in the country and the readiness of LGEB to take on more responsibilities, LGEB was upgraded as the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) in August 1992 (LGD, 1992).
It is widely recognised that the role of infrastructure in economic development is significant and often greater than that of investment in other forms of capital (World Bank, 1994). Mujeri (2002) argues that rural infrastructure including irrigation structure play an important role in the socio-economic development of rural areas. Rural works Programme (RWP) and the Thana Irrigation Programme (TIP) and micro-finance have been seen as two interrelated sub-strategies for achieving poverty alleviation (MoLGRD, 1979; MIP, 1998). Comilla Model tried to integrate these two strategies and considered that the breakdown of the interrelationship between the RWP, the TIP and the co-operative would result in undermining of the whole rural development effort through the Comilla experiment (Sen, 1996).
With mission and vision of Comilla model of A.H. Khan, LGED got involvement in escalating food production and facilitating food marketing through surface water management by excavating/re-excavating drains and canals, digging new canals, repair and construction of bunds and embankments, reclamation of land for productive purpose, repair and construction of bridges, repair and construction of earthen and pucca roads meant for irrigation and communication in the name of Works Programme and Thana Irrigation Programme (GoEP, 1962). The TIP program gave responsibility to the Union Parishad (UP) members to find out available surface water resources to plan for utmost irrigation coverage by Low Lift Pumps (LLPs). UP members formed project committees under the RWP to re-excavate irrigation canals for better agricultural production (GoEP, 1962).
With the same objectives as of TIP, LGED started Canal Digging Programme (CDP) in 1979 initially on voluntary basis and later on with the assistance from Food for Work (FFW) to de-silt sediment filled channels all over the country to boost-up water storage capacity of channels for irrigation. The CDP aimed to increase irrigation water supply, drainage improvement, tree plantation on canal bank and fisheries development. The program implemented 3,276 km of khal re-excavation, 429,597 pond re-excavation projects and 382 hydraulic structures. The benefited area covered under CDP was about 419,500 hectares (IWRMU, 2008). In parallel to CDP, under Rural Employment Sector Programme (RESP) funded by SIDA and NORAD, LGED initiated development of small-scale water resources schemes to increase agricultural as well as food production and rural employment generation in 1986 and the programme was continued up to 1996 (MPIUS, 1998). The project implemented 60 small-scale schemes in six districts (Kurigram, Faridpur, Rajbari, Madaripur, Gopalgonj and Shariatpur). IDP covered about 20,530 hectares of cultivated land benefiting 51,230 farm families (RESP, 2000; IWRMU, 2008b). LGED has performed excellently in implementing the rural infrastructures in collaboration with local users to increase food production and consequent employment generation (Faruqee & Choudhury, 1996).
With an aim to provide dry season irrigation facilities by using surface water in increasing rice and non-rice crops production especially in the coastal belt LGED first implemented two rubber dams in Cox’s Bazar District in 1995 on a pilot basis. Inspired by the success of the pilot projects, the Government considered rubber dams for wide replication and, consequently, construction of more rubber dams was taken up all over the country. LGED has constructed eleven more rubber dams in 1999-2007 (DoAE & LGED, 2005) and started to construct 10 more rubber dams in 2009-2014. Participatory irrigation management and O&M have been adopted for the rubber dam projects (DoAE & LGED, 2009).
- To surface the initiatives of the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) in food security and employment generation through surface water management with participatory approach.
- To present the state of the art of the participatory surface water management process in sustainable socio-economic development by increasing crop as well as food production and thereby employment generation in the rural areas of Bangladesh
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