Cultivation of saline water shrimp on vast part of coastal area started its journey as an industry in Bangladesh since early 80s and reached its boom in the last few years. The sector is an hundred percent export oriented one.
In addition to the total loss of Chokoria-Sunderbans mangrove forest, shrimp aquaculture in populated coastal areas adversely affected land fertility, increased salinity intrusion, contaminated drinking water sources, caused loss of biodiversity and livestock and deprived people of their sources of traditional living. Saline water intrusion affected sweet water fisheries, infested ground water, contaminated ponds leaving villagers with very little or no water for daily uses. Due to expansion of saline water inundated fields, there was no space for grazing and household poultry simply disappeared.
The shrimp farmers are largely outsiders who, in connivance with law enforcing agencies, were applying coercive methods to take and retain control over lands. This was particularly worrying for women.
Although the yearly lease agreements kept provisions for handing over lands for four months to facilitate crop cultivations, the same was never allowed. Leases could not be terminated at the will of the land owners as the entire administration was backing up the shrimp farmers.
All these affected local employment and severely hindered local food production and water supply giving rise to serious public grievances. Agricultural economists claimed that saline water shrimp cultivation was causing loss of worth $ 150 million per year, while Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations stated that the catch of 100 fries of bagda results in spoiling of 5,000 other aquatic species indicating devastation to inland fish stock. The Soil Resource Development Institute of Bangladesh (SRDI; 2000) observed that about 64% of the cultivable land in Satkhira became saline invested, while about 69% land in Khulna and 61% land in Bagerhat could not cultivate due to salinity intrusion. An initial assessment done by the Department of Environment (2008) observed that in the 20 years of shrimp cultivation, it has only destroyed people’s sources of traditional living, agriculture, livestock, biodiversity, and natural balance. The Agriculture Division of the Ministry of Agriculture observed (2009) that salinity intrusion has led to loss of grazing fields for cattle and poultry for which local supply of essentials like milks and eggs went down causing severe malnutrition. This Divisions also reported damage to homestead forestry due to aquaculture which was described as a curse to people.
In addition to negative ecological and environmental effects, the cultivation of commercial and saline water shrimp has also led to severe consequences in social and law and order situation of respective areas. The conflicts about control over and access to lands, abuse of women and children, forced intrusion of saline water, damage to public property and so on have resulted in ever deteriorating law and order situation in the coastal areas under shrimp cultivation. It is widely believed that the killings of Gobinda Dutta, village Dohuri Bhaina, Dumuria Upazilla, Khulna (died on 22nd July, 1988); Karunamoi Sardar, village Bigordana, Paikgachha Upazilla, Khulna (died on 7th November, 1990); Zaber Sheikh, village Korerdon, Batiaghata Upazilla, Khulna (died on 21st September, 1994), Mowla Box, village Mothbati, Upazilla Paikgacha, Khulna (died in 1989) Zaheda Begum, village Baburabad, Upazilla Debhata, Satkhira (died on 27 July, 1998); Kinu Gazi, village Khoria, Upazilla Paikgachha, Khulna (died on 24 September, 2008) and many more are all consequences of their leadership in the anti-shrimp campaigns.
Foreign currency earning from the frozen food sector is 4.23% of the total export earning, shrimp constitutes 80% of the said sector. Of the total exported shrimp, the farm shrimp contributes to about 39%-46%.