Local resistances to global capital: Thirty years since Karunamoyee’s protest against industrial shrimp aquaculture
Subject: Action Alert in memory of Karunamoyee
Date: Wed, 07 Nov 2001 01:19:55 -0800
Please note: This is a special Action Alert sent to you on behalf of our
good friends in Bangladesh, especially for those brave resisters at Polder
22 who risk their lives still in defending their lands from invasive prawn
farming This Alert goes out in coordination of similar action alerts going
on worldwide in memory of Karunamoyee Sarder who, on Nov. 7th, 1990, made
the ultimate sacrifice in defence of her threatened community's land and
Save The Sundarban!
When Mangrove Action Project's Director visited the Sundarban region
during the recent Steering Committee meeting of ISA Net, he was
especially impressed with two things: the dwindling extent of the largest
remaining mangrove forest in the world and the great courage of the farming
community of Horinkhola Polder 22 whose stalwart members have been
resisting for over a decade the unruly insurgence of the shrimp farming
industry surrounding their community. Polder 22 is like a war zone --an
island of steadfast resistance in a tumultuous sea of industrial greed and
corruption. Polder 22 is that last bastion of brave combatants who will
fight to the very last soldier in this winless war upon our Mother Earth.
Horinkhola Polder 22 is both an inspiration and a blessing in this earthly
existence we call life. Without such resistance against such open tyranny,
what worth is there in future? In the study of biology, three of the chief
factors defining if something is alive are growth, movement and the
survival instinct. At Horinkhola Polder 22, we happily witnessed a growing
movement whose very existence will determine whether this community
survives or not. Though the resistance is strong at Polder 22, the shrimp
aquaculture industry is also determined to inundate this last vestige of
The question remains: how long can they resist, and how long will we
remember their struggle burning like a fire among many fires?
PLEASE READ ON, AND PARTICIPATE IN THE BELOW POSTED ACTION ALERT!!
Mangrove Action ProjectCommemoration For Karunamoyee Sarder
The 7th of November is upon us, and the preparation at the field level for
this memorial day is going on. We issue this special and urgent appeal to
our members and associates, asking that you please offer your help and
support for the people of Bangladesh on this day against the continuing
illegal expansion of the shrimp aquaculture industry in the Sundarbans.
Nov. 7th has become an international day from this year. It was since 1990
a day commemortated by the people of Bangladesh for the bravery and
ultimaste sacrifice of one of its leaders, Karunamoyee Sarder. We suggest
that all of you organize your own program which fits into your work. That
can be writing an article or having a minute of silence in honor of
Karunamoyee and the struggle for justice and the future which her death
represents. Please send a letter to Nijera Kori afterwards as to how you
kept up the memory of this day in your country. This will be good feedback
to the people in Bangladesh.
In Bangladesh we will all go to Harin khola a couple of hours from Khulna
in the south of Bangladesh. When we arrive by troller (a local boat) we
first put our flowers at the mosaic monument and gather for a minute of
silence. The whole morning people will come and put flowers at the
monument either by foot from the village nearby or by boats from villages
outside the area of Poulder 22 where the villasge is located.
After putting the flowers at the monument and the minute of silence we
will all go by foot in a rally to Bigordana school mart about 3 km from the
monument. Thousands of people will come in different rallies shouting
slogans about how the shrimp cultivation destroys the life in the area.
When all groups reached Bigordana the meeting starts with some cultural
groups performing dances and theatre. Usually a song about Karunamoyee and
what happened that day in 1990. This year we expect 10 000 people to
attend. For a couple of hours there will be speeches-- mainly by the local
people, but also by Khushi Kabir of Nijera Korti, some journalists,
advocates etc, and the program will
end up with a drama performance by a cultural group of Nijera Kori.
In Khulna city there may also be rallies this day organized by the
citizens' forum. Manik Saha a journalist from Khulna has written an
excellent account of the Nov. 7th incident entitled, "The
Peoples Movement Against Shrimp Farming in Bangladesh" which
covers the whole story of the 7th of November, 1990.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Please send a letter of concern to the newly formed government of
Bangladesh about the consequences of shrimp cultivation. Mention that you
would like to see the newly formed government take steps towards a
sustainable and socially just policy of shrimp cultivation in
Bangladesh. Because the new government minsters have not yet started to
work, we do not know in what way they will develop the industry. A sample
letter is provided below which we urge you to please print and sign, then
fax your letter to the government officials at their fax numbers t provided
Please also send your letter by either fax or e-mail to Nijera Kori
We at Nijera Kori is now asking for international assistance to observe
the memory of Korunamyee Sardar. We have already sent you some articles
about what happened 11 years ago on the 7 of November in Bangladesh. As a
part of the anti shrimp movement we would like to take the opportunity to
express our concern to the newly formed Government of Bangladesh by sending
the letter attached in this mail.
Please send the letter to:
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia on fax 880-2-8113244
Minister of Finance and Planning, M. Salifur Rahman on fax 880-2-8616200
Minister of Environment and Forest, Siraj Shajahan on fax 880-2-8610166
Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Sadeq Hossain Khoka on fax 880-2-8618182
Also send email or fax to the English newspapers in Bangladesh:
The Daily Star: Editor Muhfuz Anam, firstname.lastname@example.org
email@example.com or fax 880-2-8125155, 8126154
The Independent: firstname.lastname@example.org (editorial) or email@example.com (news) or
com or fax 880-2-9127722
Holiday: Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Enayetullah Khan, email
firstname.lastname@example.org fax 880-2-9127927
Bangladesh Observer: fax 880-2-9562243 email: email@example.com
Please also send us a copy of the letter
Today, the 7 of November, is the international memorial day for a strong
Bangladeshi woman, Karunamoyee Sardar who was killed in 1990 in a clash
between villagers and a powerful shrimp cultivator in village Horin Khola,
in Khulna region. She was hit by a bullet and died on the spot while 40
other villagers of the area were injured and hospitalized. Their only
demand was to continue the peaceful life on a small plot in the area. She
wanted to protect the land against a plan to develop, through force and
without legal basis, a shrimp farm in the area, but she had to pay a high
price. Still now after 11 years her murdercase is continuing in court even
though the evidence is clear against the powerful shrimp cultivator.
Today we all pay her our homage and express commitment to continue the
fight for trial of the killers of Korunamoyee as well as for the rights of
the farmers who have been struggling for the same objectives all over the
This is to express our concern to the newly formed Government of
Bangladesh about the effects of export-oriented saline water shrimp
cultivation on the environment and on local communities. We hope that the
newly formed Government will take the responsibility in developing
sustainable alternatives instead of the export-oriented saline water shrimp
cultivation, which destroys the beautiful mangrove forest that Bangladesh
is blessed with or without converting fertile agriculture land into saline
water bodies, which harm the environment.
We know that the frozen food industry brings in foreign exchange to
Bangladesh, but we also know that the industry is a sensitive income source
since virus has attacks almost all shrimp producing countries, which has
resulted in huge economic loss for the farmers. The industry is also
dependent on the demand in the consumer's countries and as more people get
aware of the industry's negative side, more people will choose for
ISA net (Industrial Shrimp Action Network) is a global network of leading
non-government and environmental organisations working to address the
social and environmental impacts of shrimp farming. While we acknowledge
the potentialities existing in Bangladesh we would also like to inform you
briefly about the impacts that we have seen in other shrimp producing
The world's mangrove forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate and
shrimp farming is the main cause behind the mangrove loss.
Productive rice paddies are converted into chemical intensive shrimp
ponds. These ponds have a short life span, devastating land that cannot
support the local communities who are left behind.
Local people have lost their livelihoods and are not even able to send
their children to school anymore.
Women are insecure in their own village since the violence and lack of
human rights has increased.
Food security and health of the local communities are at risk when fish,
poultry, livestock, vegetable and fruit do not thrive any longer in the
We at ...(add your organisation) ....Nijera Kori, a local NGO in
Bangladesh and a member of ISA net working with social mobilization,
awareness building and environmental issues amongst the grassroots in
Bangladesh have seen the environmental and social consequences in
Bangladesh already...... That is the reason why we sign this letter to urge
the newly formed Government to take a step towards a sustainable
development, to work out a proper policy concerning shrimp aqua culture and
to secure a safe environment for all people in of Bangladesh.
From Åsa Wistrand for Nijera Kori
Shrimp cultivation puts environment in danger
In Bangladesh more than 20 per cent of the net cultivable land is in the
coastal area. Out of this, the salt effected area has been estimated at
around 3.05 millions hectare, scattered over 18 southern districts. Areas
with non-saline soil have turned into slightly-saline soil and are no
longer suitable for cultivation. (RDC, Scientific Research Report on
Impacts of Shrimp Farming on Soil and Water Quality of Some Selected Areas
in the Greater Khulna District).
According to the Soil Resource Development Institute, the rate of salinity
from 1935 parts per million (ppm) to 2580 ppm in the soil and up to 4080
ppm in water is not harmful. During May and June, the salinity rises up to
16125 ppm in most rivers in Khulna, which are used for shrimp cultivation.
In December and January, when the shrimp field dries up, a layer of salt
becomes visible on the soil, which contains salt up to 12900 ppm. (Saha. M,
Shrimp culture: Socio-economic and environmental impacts).
This increase of salt in the soil has affected terribly the agriculture of
this region. Malati Rani and Narayan live in a remote village in Khulna
district. With the help of their four children (one son and three
daughters) they have so far been able to live on their small piece of land.
Today their life has changed because of the shrimp cultivation. Malati Rani
woefully relates how clean water has become a genuine scarcity in this area.
Since a shrimp farmer from Khulna leased their land on a half-year basis
for shrimp cultivation, increase of salinity has caused a depletion in the
fertility. During the rainy season they try to cultivate rice on this land,
but fail due to saline conditions. “The soil of this area was fertile even
ten years back,” Narayan said. “Today the whole situation has changed due
to unplanned shrimp cultivation,” He added.
Shrimp cultivation has also affected cultivation of livestock due to
shortage of fodder. As an outcome of all these, clashes often ensue between
shrimp farm owners and local people.
Malati Rani fetched a wonderful handmade mat from inside her hut. “Once
upon a time I used to weave this kind of mat, “ she told, “ but now ‘melay’
the reed used for this is rarely to be seen in the area.” “Many of our
friends have already left the village to work in the city and some have
even migrated to India. We do not know what will happen to us,” she said.
Narayan related the incident in Beel Bhainar in 1988 when a shrimp
cultivator established a shrimp farm which resulted in massive
environmental degeneration in that area. Many people lost their land and
houses due to it. “We are afraid that the same thing is going to happen
here in our village if shrimp cultivation continues in an unplanned way,”
With 130 millions of people, Bangladesh is one of the most densely
populated countries in the world. Every acres of land here is valuable.
Already 140 000 hectares of land have been used for shrimp cultivation. The
industry is now looking for another 100,000 hectares of land (BFFEA,
January 2001). Immediate steps are required to be taken to deal with the
menace of unplanned shrimp cultivation.From October 19, 2001What does the shrimp farming industry lead to?
Shrimp cultivation has brought about changes in the rural life along the
coastal areas. It is hard to find the traditional family of a farmerwith
huge fishes in the pond, vegetables in the house garden and crops in the
landany more. Many people are forced to take jobs outside their native
village. The wife and the family are left in the village, collecting shrimp
fry while the men work as day-labourers in nearby cities. The marginal
farmers, share-croppers, agricultural day-labourers, fishermen and petty
traders used to work on cultivating rice during the monsoon and catch fish
in the flood plains during the off-season. Beside, they had additional
income from their cattle, poultry, vegetable gardens and orchards, but due
to the extension of shrimp cultivation in the region, all those sources of
income have decreased. The women’s activities in poultry, weaving and fuel
preparation have also become scarce. In some areas, totally involved in
shrimp cultivation, there is nothing left to live on, except to be involved
in the shrimp industry. Shrimp cultivation, which is not as
labour-intensive as rice cultivation, has vastly reduced job opportunities,
resulting in a large number of people facing unemployment.
Many studies depict the opposite picture and state, for example, that
shrimp cultivation, directly or indirectly, create jobs and thus increase
the household income, resulting in a better livelihood. The question is:
what happens with the people in the area who are not willing to be involved
in the shrimp industry? Can they survive in their home village any more?
Another important question: what kind of jobs does the shrimp industry
provide for the poor people? Many small shrimp farmers are saying that they
cultivate shrimps nowadays because the land is unsuitable for crop
cultivation. The local people, thus, are more or less forced to be involved
in the shrimp industry.
The job it creates
In shrimp enclosures, most of the upper level staffs are outsiders. The
number of local people, who are mostly engaged in maintenance of dikes and
weeding, amounts to less than 5 per cent of the unemployed people of those
who have lost their occupations because of shrimp cultivation.
Further on, in larger farms, around 15 to 20 guards are employed to look
after the farm day and night. They often use loaded arms and sometimes fire
bullets and explode bombs to get people away from the area. Most of the
guards are strangers in the area and many of them are associated with
different types of crimes. Village people often tell stories about how the
guards use violence against the people, both women and men, and how they
are killing poultry for feast in the security tower.
Women have become involved in preparing and repairing the shrimp
enclosures, beheading shrimps in shrimp depots and collecting post-larvae
>from the rivers and streams. The working condition in the beheading and
pre-processing industry is often very bad. Women are sometimes working with
bare hands and are often not supplied with gloves. As a result, skin
diseases get on the rise. See the story told by a man from Satkhira:
“Most of the people in this area are involved in the shrimp industry, even
if they do not want it. It is the only opportunity for earning a small
amount of money. There is nothing else left to live on in Satkhira. The
labour of the poor people builds this industry. For examples, in every
enclosure, guards work for 24 hour a day in this small bamboo hut for a
very meagre salary. The women and the children work full day, catching fry
in the water. Many women and children also work in the plants to peel and
cut the shrimps. The environment in these plants is bad. The women and
children work barehanded in the ice water. Skin disease is an increasing
problem. The women are tools for this industry.”
Impact on health and education
What about the health and education of the school-going children? Before
shrimp cultivation started in the region, even day-labourers were able to
send their children to school, but the introduction of shrimp cultivation
has decreased their income. Now, they are not able to afford spending money
on their children’s education. Instead, they are involved in the fry
A child collecting shrimp fry/post-larvae has to stay in water for an
average of 6 to 8 hours a day and is able to collect 20 to 40 shrimp fry or
post-larvae over the time. Thus a child earns an average of Tk. 50 per day.
As a result, there is the danger of fungus attack on the skin, bronchitis
and other respiratory problems. Long exposure to sunlight causes
dehydration caused by perspiration and loss of sodium. The child's immunity
system gets weakened. Heath workers in the areas concerned report that
bronchitis, pneumonia, hepatitis, skin problem and sunstroke are common in
the shrimp farming areas. (Radda Barnen, Health Hazards of Children in
Shrimp Fry Collection and Effects of Shrimp Fry Collection on the Primary
A Grameen Trust study shows the following facts: About 81 per cent of the
children in the study area are engaged in fry/post larvae collection; out
of the children collecting shrimps, 75 per cent are boys and 25 per cent
girls; most children collecting fry are from 8 to 10 years old. They
collect fry/post-larvae in two shiftsfrom 5 am to 11 am and 4 pm to 7 pm;
and this is why they cannot go to school. The attendance at primary schools
is 79 per cent, which is lower than the average for the thana; admission to
primary school is also 79 per cent, which is less than the thana average;
about 43 per cent of the primary schools within the study area fall under
the Food for Education Programme of the government. But 80 per cent of the
families who benefits from the Food for Education Programme send their
children for collecting shrimp fry. As a result, the government’s
Compulsory Primary Education programme has also broken down.
A spokesman of the Primary Education Directorate said that in the villages
situated by riverbanks, drop-out is not the only problem; initial
admissions have also gone down drastically. Although the school admissions
have gone up to 94 per cent nationally as a result of the Food for
Education Programme, in the shrimp areas, admissions are far less than
that. More than half of the children in this area cannot complete their
primary education. About 20 per cent of the admitted children drop out in
the very first year, as reported in the press.
So before wowing the shrimp industry as the income source for the local
people, we must consider the jobs it creates and for whom. Bangladesh does
not need a new industry based on bad condition, low salary, health problem,
environmental disaster and child labour. Bangladesh needs a sustainable
alternative that can benefit both the local and the national economy and
whereby the village people can afford sending their children to schools
again, who will form the next generation in Bangladesh.
The writer works with Nijera Kori, a non-government development agency.
Åsa Wistrand Nijera Kori 3/3, Block A, Lalmatia, Dhaka -1207 Bangladesh
Phone: 880-2- 8122199 Mobile: 019-348267 Fax 880-2-8122250 Email:
Alfredo Quarto, Executive Director
Mangrove Action Project
PO Box 1854
Port Angeles, WA 98362-0279
phone/ fax (360) 452-5866
web site: http://www.earthisland.org/