Thirteenth International Water Technology Conference, IWTC 13 2009, Hurghada, Egypt 1629
WATER RESOURCES AND AQUATIC BIODIVERSITY
CONTRIBUTING SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Md.Sohrab Uddin Sarker
Department of Zoology, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
Bangladesh is rich in water resources of 6564 square kilometer consisting running and
closed freshwater in the main land and 5,518 square kilometer of estuarine water and
open sea water of the Bay of Bengal to the south. Closed water reserved are haors,
baors, lakes, ponds, deghees and ditches in plain land mass and Kaptai and Bogakine
Lakes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The running water are large rivers of the Padma,
the Jamuna and the Meghna and their tributaries, Karnaphuli, Kushiara, Dhaleshari,
hilly springs, drainages, canals, etc finally discharging to the Bay of Bengal.
Moreover, rain and flood water are also available seasonally. Brackish water consists
of the Sundarban mangrove forests and numbers of islands and islets in the southern
coastal offshore and 200 naughty kilometer of marine water in the Bay of Bengal.
Kaptai Lake contributes greater amount of electricity generation and Bogakine Lake
and springs developed for ecotourism. Ground water is used mainly for irrigation in
the crop field, drinking and sanitation purposes. The surface water carries out large
amount of erodated soil sediments of inorganic and organic nutrient to the cultivated
land and offshore areas.
Water is more or less full of aquatic living biodiversity resources particularly in flood
and rainy seasons and even through out the year. About 6 species of crabs, 46 species
of shrimps and prawn 600 species of freshwater, estuarine and sea water fishes, 5 frogs
and toads, 27 turtles and tortoises, one salt water and 2 freshwater crocodiles, 3
monitor lizards, 200 species of migratory and 100 of resident birds, 7 dolphins and
whales have so far been recorded from there. Planktons, annelids, mollusks, insects
provide food to fish and fisheries components. Biodiversity resources contribute
protein demand of the people and play a vital role in the ecosystem of the country.
In recent years, river and coastal water are highly contaminated by heavy metal
toxicity of industrial residual discharge and oil spills of ships and other vessels. It
creates health hazard and adverse effects and even killing of biodiversity. International
assistant and cooperation are mostly essential in this aspect.
Keywords: Haor, Baor, Beel, Deghee, Donga.
1630 Thirteenth International Water Technology Conference, IWTC 13 2009, Hurghada, Egypt
Bangladesh is a deltaic island of the Bay of Bengal rich water and aquatic bio-diversity
resources throughout the year particularly in monsoon and winter seasons. The fresh
water mainly composed of haor ‘a large natural shallow water basins of 30-60 square
kilometer area’ of Sunamgqanj, Maulavibazar, Sylhet, Netrokona districts; baor ‘a
large natural shallow water area comparatively lesser than haor’ in Jessore and
Faridpur districts and beels ‘a small natural shallow water body’ scattered in several
low lying districts and numerous new and old ponds and deghees (large pond)
excavated everywhere in the country for drinking, bathing and fish culture purposes.
Three largest rivers of the Padma, Jamuna, Meghna and their tributaries flow north-
south direction carrying running water with sufficient nutrient throughout the year.
Moreover, a number of water falls and lakes are in Moulavibazar and Chittagong hilly
districts. Heavy rainfalls occur particularly in rainy and summer seasons bringing
sediment from hilly erosion increasing fertility of the agricultural field and
productivity. Ground water is also available for drinking and irrigation purposes but
some of them are contaminated by arsenic creating health hazard of the local people
(NCS Part-1 Report 1995, Sarker and Hossain 1997).
Bay of Bengal of the Southern part of the country contributes estuarine and salt water
resources. Water bodies are full of biological diversity e.g., annelids, mollusks, insects,
helminthes in invertebrate and fish, amphibians, aquatic birds and aquatic mammals in
vertebrate groups (Sarker 1980-83, 1982, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1999, 2000a&b).
Besides, planktons are available in fresh and marine water. Some areas, water is
presently contaminated by heavy metals from dyeing industries and oil spills from ship
braking industries and on going vessels (Sarker 1991, 1992a&b, 2004, Sarker and
Sarker 1986, and 1988). Running water of the Rivers Karnaphuli and Padma is heavily
contaminated by industrial influents of factories from the river banks. Present
objective is to study the water and water resources in Bangladesh perspective and its
METHODS AND MATERIALS
The data of water and its resources were collected all over the country by direct field
visits since 1989. Field visits were made in flood, rainy and dry seasons of the year
where data on water quantification, resources assessment, pollutant density and
sources of origin were being investigated. Besides, local aged people were interviewed
for present and past status of water resources, reports of ANGOs, published
information and news media were also used in preparation of the present article for
water quality and quantity, pollutants and resources. Data are also available from city
corporations and town authorities. Climatological data were collected from weather
broadcasting agencies. Moreover, remote sensing water map, water area map with
their seasonal variation and quantification were also contributed to the article.
Thirteenth International Water Technology Conference, IWTC 13 2009, Hurghada, Egypt 1631
Estuarine and coastal offshore areas e.g. the Sundarban mangrove forests, coastal
islands and islets were observed by manually driven wooden boats and mechanical
vessels e.g. trawlers, launches, ships, etc. All collected data were entered in the field
data sheets and finally were analyzed in computer.
OBSERVATION AND RESULTS
Water and Bio-resources
Water is the most important component of living and non living materials. Life is the
source of water. Bangladesh is one the water resource country in the world. About
60% plain land used to go underwater in big flood season and even the whole plain
land mass is over flooded in subsequent years as natural phenomena. During flood and
heavy rainy season maximum plain land mass remains under water for 3-4 months.
Rural people have to only way of manual driving transportation by locally made
wooden boats, excavated palm tree locally called ‘Donga’ and ‘Bhura’ made by 3/4
banana plants attached side by side by jute thread or bamboo sticks support one or
more person or domestic animal like goat, dog, fowl, etc .
In flood and rainy seasons aquatic biodiversity e.g. fish, frogs, turtles, snakes, insects
breed and rebreed in water provide important protein supply to the local people.
During the wet seasons haors, baors, beels, ponds, deghees, canals, drainages remain
full of water and water biodiversity resources. Biggest haors are Hakaluki 50X70
square kilometer water area of Fenchugonj-Sylhet district, Tanguar of 100 square
kilometer and Pashwar 25 square kilometer of Sunamgonj, Hailar 30-50 square
kilometer of Srimangol, Moulavbaxar districts; Baors of 40x50 square kilometer of
Jessore districts. Beside, numerous beels, ponds and deghees, dithes are important
sources of fresh water utilized mainly for bathing, domestic uses, and fish culture.
Deghees are also large old ponds made by local Jaminder (Land lord, now abolished)
mainly for bathing and drinking purposes of local people. In the passed these dehees
were abandoned facilitated the growing of small aquatic vegetation first then floating
ones followed by herbs and small wooden trees over the surface of water and become
thicker and thicker and hard so there created habitats for wild animal like monitor
lizards, snakes-python, king cobra, small carnivores e.g. jackals, foxes, civets, jungle
and fishing cats, mongoose live and feed there and domestic animals like goats, cow
could also easily graze over there. Carnivore fish, climber fish, cat fish like magur,
singhi live in water under thick cover over and they climb out on land in rainy day or
night in group lines and local people used to catch them by hand.
Kaptai is the largest man made lake of 567.97 square kilometer of water body in
Rangamati Hill district is mainly contributed for electricity generation, covering most
of the country areas. Bogakine a natural lake the second largest one of the country
situated on the top of hill of many meter above the ground but lake is less bio-
resources except only few fish but draws attention of tourists in winter season. Large
rivers the Padma, Jamuna, Meghna, Kushiara, Karnafulli, etc. and their tributaries
1632 Thirteenth International Water Technology Conference, IWTC 13 2009, Hurghada, Egypt
carry water over the country from the Himalaya of India and Nepal to the south into
the Bay of Bengal. Many of them are dried in dry season mainly due to Farraka
Barrage of India causes sever environmental impacts in agriculture and climate.
There are 5,518.square kilometer of estuarine /brackish water and about 200 naughty
kilometer of open sea water of the Bay of Bengal. Estuarine causes high and low tides
of 0.5- 2 meter height every 24 hours in the Sundarban mangrove forest of 6200 sq.
kilometer alone with other coastal areas 710 kilometer long.
Estuarine and marine water are important natural fisheries and fish resources and
recent decades are used for fisheries cultures like fish, shrimp, prawn, crabs, etc. for
foreign and local trade.
Tomascik (1997) recorded 68 corals from the supra, inter, and sub-tidal zones of the
St. Martin Island Some corals are encrusted on the boulders at the island. The genera
Porites, Goniopora, Cyphastrea and goniastrea were abundance. Corals are heavily
exploited causing rapid declining of these resources from the St. Martin. Growing of
awareness among the fishermen and local community about the harm they do the
ecosystem of resources which are sustaining their livelihood.
About 301 species of marine mollusks are recorded from the Bay of Bengal of which
187 from St. Martin Island and other from freshwater areas (Ali 1975, Ahmed et al
1990 and Sarker 2006). The pearl producing and cowries molluscs like Pinctada sp.
are also available in Bangladesh. Among the molluscs Trochus sp. and Conus sp. are
commercially very important. The species should be used in mariculture practices
along the off shore islands. The deep sea species under class Cephalopoda recorded
from Bay of Bengal (NCSP-1-2001and Sarker 2006).
There are 17 species of marine and 6 freshwater crabs so far reported from estuarine,
marine and freshwater water (Paul 1996, IUCN and Sarker 2004). Among them mud
crab is one of the largest one, sells in local markets and exports foreign countries.
Crabs are flattened in culture and rearing pond for increasing the size and weight for
Fishermen collect mud crabs from estuarine water in the rivers of the Sundarbans and
others areas along the coast as well as the muddy bank of brackish water rivers by
baited hooks, Long hook and Behundi Net (Sarker 2004).
Thirteenth International Water Technology Conference, IWTC 13 2009, Hurghada, Egypt 1633
About 70,000 km² marine water of which 10,240 km² are used as shrimp and fishing
areas. Sixty seven species of shrimps and prawns are recorded of which approximately
35 from the estuaries and marine water off Bangladesh coast (Hawlader (1976).
Shrimps occur in the offshore and the deep sea where salinity varies from 15 to 20 ppt.
Shrimps are processed at Chittagong and Mongolia ports for shipment and by air at
Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet air ports for exporting.
Eight species of echinoderms are so far been identified from the coastal areas of
Bangladesh by NCSP1 team member 1995-1997. The most of them are used in
education and research purposes in the colleges and universities.
Eel and Chewa
Eels and Chewa (small eel like fish) are also important component of marine fishery
resources. Local people and fishermen collect the eels by special type of nets, hooks
and hands from shallow water areas of the sea coast like crabs for sale in markets and
Fish and Offshore fishery
Four hundred seventy five species of marine fish are known to occur in the coastal and
open sea water of Bangladesh. Among the marine fish Rup chanda, loita, catfish,
swordfish, hilsha (shad), phaisa, chela, tona, sardin, poa, baila, kaika, potka, bombey
duck, ribbon fish, mackerel, thead pomfret, skates and ray, etc etc. are important.
Important yearly product estimated 4000-12000 tons processed for exporting in 1974
(Sada, 1991) and 160,000 tons (Saetre, 1981, Shafi and Quddus 1982). Besides,
different species of sharks are fished for fins to export. In February–April 06, large
number of tiger sharks are caught in the fishing nets and dried for selling to tribal
In winter from November to mid March fishermen dry all kinds of fish in the sun
along the coast where they fish in the sea. Dried fish are processed for Chittagong
from where distributed to local markets and ships for export (Sarker 2004, Sarker and
Three species of frogs and one toad were recorded from the Sundabans and 9 species
from main land freshwater.(Sarker 1980-83 & 2004). Skipper frogs were the highest
number and had wider distribution in the mangrove forests areas. Three hundred fifty
five green frogs were recorded in the mainland along the outer fringe of the four
ranges of the Sundarbans.
Of the reptilian species 3 were crocodiles, 5 sea turtles, 1 batagur, 3 monitor lizards
and 11 sea snakes occur in Bangladesh water.
Saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) were numerous towards the end of
seventeen and beginning of eighteen century. In the past decades the population of the
1634 Thirteenth International Water Technology Conference, IWTC 13 2009, Hurghada, Egypt
crocodiles declined very rapidly. In recent years population recorded 200 by Khan
(1982), 62 sighting report by Sarker (1980-1983) and 40 by Sarker and Shafi
(1994).The freshwater crocodile already extinct and Ghorial is few and on the verse of
5 species of sea turtles occur along the coastal areas of Bangladesh like Olive Ridley
turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), River terrapin (Batagur
baska) and Leatherback turtles (Lepidochelys coriacea). During fishing, sea turtles
particularly the Ridley were caught in the fishing nets and they are killed or died there.
Remaining live turtles, some of them consumed and sole (Sarker 1982, 2000, NCSP-1
2001, Gani 2000).
Grey monitor (Varanus bengalensis) and Yellow monitor (V. flaviscence) distributed
in the plain wood land and forest periphery and watered areas. The ring monitor (V.
salvator) occurs in the Sundarbans and other mangrove forests.
Of the11 species of sea snakes recorded from the coast and deep sea. King cobra is the
most deadly poisonous snakes and python the largest non-poisonous one occur in the
mangrove and plain and hilly wetland forests and besides, 7 species of snakes occur in
freshwater (Sarker 1999). In winter, hundreds of sea snakes were caught in the fishing
nets and they died either in the nets or in the fishing boats while they are kept over
night along with fish. All dead snakes are thrown on the fish land spots. Alive ones
were killed or died there.
Shrimps, Crabs and Fishes
In the shrimps culture, Penaeus mondon covers 80% and the rest are P.indicus,
Metapenaeus moncerceros, M.breviornis. Number of shrimp hatchery and rearing
culture are 101530 and the areas are 133670.70 ha (Paul 1996). Shrimp fry is collected
usually by local poor people in the shallow water of the offshore areas by different
types of nets from January to April and August. Collectors collect only shrimp fry and
reject the other marine animal fries where they die cause huge loss of the fry and
young of the marine biodiversity resources. Government recently imposed ban on such
type of shrimp collection for protecting them. Production of shrimp was 35.34
thousand metric tons and earned Taka 382.05 core.
Aves and Mammals
Fisheries fries particularly shrimp and prawn are collected by nylon thin nets by a
number local poor people for their livelihood in the estuarine and coastal water all the
year and supply to the hatcheries for culture there. During collection of shrimp fries a
large number of fish fries are also caught and rejected to the sandy bank where they all
died and it causes great loss of biodiversity resources throughout the year. It needs to
Thirteenth International Water Technology Conference, IWTC 13 2009, Hurghada, Egypt 1635
During dry season water reduce to 60 to 90 % and even dried out in some areas used
for cultivation irrigation. Water areas provide fish resources and one the protein
resource for the people throughout the year. Culture fisheries like freshwater and
marine fish, shrimp and prawn, frogs, mollusks are usually imported out side earning
foreign currency for socio-economic development (Sarker and Hossain1997 & Sarker
et al 2000, Sarker and Mollah (1996).
In winter season 100 species of migratory birds of millions individuals including water
fowl, storks, ibises, spoonbills, waders, eagles, kites, come to visit wetland areas every
year in search of favorable habitats and food first along the coastal water and then
followed inland water of Bangladesh . They begin to come in August at the advent of
winter, become highest concentration in December and January and decline from
March and begin to return from April and finally left in May June every year. Many of
them have failed return their origin due shooting, killing, trapping, poisoning, etc. by
local professional hunters, shooters and trappers in spite of existing Wildlife
Preservation Order which strongly prohibited of killing of migrants and other wildlife
both water and terrestrial condition.
About 9 species of porpoise, dolphins and whale occur in off shore coastal estuarine
water of the Bay of Bengal on the southern part of Bangladesh. Among them only one
species of Genetic dolphin (Planista gangetuicus) occurs in fresh water rivers and
sometimes in estuarine rivers of the Sundarbans.
Impacts and threats
Unscientific implementation of projects e.g. FDC, FCDI, Mahuri, coastal
embankment, and dam across the rivers Padma-Farraka Dam of India.
Oil spill, industrial wastes, e.g. urea, chromium, mercury, agrochemical, insecticide,
herbicide, rodenticides, etc. over floodding, mangrove destruction, ship braking, over
exploitation of shrimps, fish and other marine resources.
Hunting, trapping, capturing and killing by professional poachers assisting decline of
biodiversity of the marine and mangrove resources.
Destroying of the nests of sea turtles by erosion of rive, canal, banks and chars, tide
Drainage of agrochemical, siltation, erosion, cyclone, sea level rise are enhancing the
problem of the marine wildlife like heherpeto-fauna, birds and mammals for future.
Threatened Marine and Estuarine Species
Eighteen species of marine fish are listed in threatened categories both globally and
nationally by 1UCN, Bangladesh 2000 (Table 1).
1636 Thirteenth International Water Technology Conference, IWTC 13 2009, Hurghada, Egypt
Table 1. Nationally Threatened Group of Marine Animal Diversity of Bangladesh
Major Group Threatened Category
Fish CR EN VU DD LR Total
Marine fish -- 1 3 -- -- 4
Reptile 1 4 -- -- -- 10
Bird -- 2 4 4 6 6+10+
Mammal -- 2 1 -- -- 3
Total group 1 9 8 4 6 18+10
** Sources: Sarker and Sarker 1988
Among the fish Hammer headed shark, Pristis microdon is endangered and Black
shark, Carcharinus limbatus, Hippocampus kuda and Thannus obesus are vulnerable
The Green frogs are endangered and Bull frogs are threatened locally. In reptiles
Saltwater crocodile, Crocodilus porosus is critically endangered nationally and all sea
turtles are threatened globally.
Salt water crocodiles are vulnerable globally and Critically Endangered nationally
Grey and yellow monitors are also threatened.
In bird species, 4 are endangered, vulnerable and 4 species are data deficient and
2 mammals are endangered and 1 vulnerable.
The following recommendation may be considered for conservation of fresh and
marine water and their resources;
- Creation of awareness in the local communities and stakeholders,
- Strategy and action plan,
- Incorporating local communities in the conservation and management
- Nursery, horticulture, aqua-culture, etc. practices for their livelihood.
- Training to the forest, fishermen and stakeholders adjacent to the resources,
- Research and monitoring of water and bio-resources,
- Prohibition of sand lifting, hill cutting, erosion and jhum culture, etc.,
- Activation of law inforcing agency,
- Protection of nesting ground of sea turtle from human and predator animals.
Beautiful and colored corals, molluscs, starfish, coral fish, tiger, Saw headed and
hammer headed sharks, skates rays, etc. Crocodile, sea turtles, monitor lizards, marine
snakes, diving sea birds and dolphins in the marine aquarium might be attractive to the
Thirteenth International Water Technology Conference, IWTC 13 2009, Hurghada, Egypt 1637
Need cooperation of the relevant international organizations and NGOs in this field.
Aquatic biological diversity is an important resource of Bangladesh. Aquaculture
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