Public-Private Partnership for Sustainable Conservation and Management of Halda River EcosystemDec 26, 2016
The Halda is a unique river in Chittagong region of Bangladesh which acts as important mother fisheries and natural breeding grounds for pure Indian carp fish. Even though located in the saline coastal zone, this tidal river is the source of fresh drinkable water. This makes it a major source of drinking water supply for the Chittagong Water Supply and Sewerage Authority for 5 million city dwellers. This river has significant livelihood and economic importance for collection of eggs, water for drinking and irrigation and farming of carp fish, annually valued over US$100 million. The Halda River is also habitat for the endangered Gangetic Dolphin and several rare species of birds. A research has revealed that the amount of collected fertilized eggs from the river has dropped from 5,000 kg in 1945 to only 47 kg in 2015. Therefore, millions of people living on the bank of this 81-km long river are dependent on it for their lives and livelihoods. As the important habitat for aquatic biodiversity and breeding grounds for many of specie, water quality and ecological condition of this river is currently under serious threat from poor urban waste management, untreated chemical discharge from growing industrialisation in the region, inefficient water withdrawal for agricultural activities, sand mining and climate induced salinity intrusion. Salinity intrusion in the river is occurring due to sea level rise in the downstream river (River Karnaphully) system and increase of water temperature and erratic monsoon rainfall pattern resulted from climate variability and change.
To address the above critical issues, The Prime Minister’s Office and UNDP jointly organized a consultation workshop titled as “Partnership for Conservation of Halda River Ecosystem” at Radisson Blu Hotel, Chittagong on 26 December 2016. The workshop was organized to share the findings of a research study supported by UNDP on Halda river ecosystem with the representatives of a wide range of stakeholders. “Halda river has been closely related to our life for generations. However, the river is now dying before our eyes,” said Mr. A.B.M. Fazle Karim Chowdhury, Local Member of Parliament of Raozan, Chittagong. “We need to declare this river as Ecologically Critical Area and Ramser Site” said by Mr. Mahbubul Alam, President of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Mr. Kabir Bin Anwar, Director General, Prime Minister’s Office said that Hounarable Prime Minister give emphasis and commitment to protect this nationally important river. Mr. Babul Zaladash, a local fisherman who was present in the workshop said “we are depended on the river’s fish resources for generation and now I am not sure how I shall survive in the future as the situation is changing rapidly”.
Addressing the conservation concerns of Halda river requires strong coordination and commitment among different governmental and non-governmental actors. In this connection Mr. Sudipto Mukerjeeto, Country Director, UNDP Bangladesh informed the workshop participants that UNDP is aiming to bring the important actors from public and private sectors onboard in a single platform to restore and sustainably manage the river ecosystem. In the workshop Mr. Arif M. Faisal, Program Specialist, UNDP Bangladesh presented a partnership proposal for sustainable conservation of the river on which the participants provided their valuable opinions. The workshop was also participated by Mr. Shamsul Arefin, Deputy Commissioner, Chittagong, Mr. Khurshid Alam, Assistant Country Director, UNDP Bangladesh. It was chaired by Mr. Md. Ruhul Amin, Divisional Commissioner, Chittagong. The workshop was followed by an interactive meeting with the potential private sector representatives to explore possible public-private-community partnership for sustainable conservation of the degraded Halda river ecosystem.