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Successful protests to remain a shrimp-free zone in Polder 22, Khulna, Bangladesh

In the widespread resistance to the Bangladesh shrimp industry, a special case is the relative success of Polder 22 in remaining a shrimp-free zone. In 1990 the landless leader Karunamoyee Sardar was shot and killed.


Structural adjustment programmes imposed on Bangladesh by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund since the 1980s provided ample opportunities to earn high foreign exchange by venturing into export oriented activities. During the second half of the 1980s, major international banks and development agencies began financing projects for promoting commercial shrimp production in Bangladesh; the World Bank and the UNDP funded the Shrimp Culture Project in 1986 and the Third Fisheries Project in 1991, while the Asian Development Bank supported another shrimp project in Chittagong in south-eastern Bangladesh (Adnan, 2013). These projects allowed for large scale land grabbing, by any means necessary, in the coastal districts for commercial aquaculture. This transition from agriculture to aquaculture was facilitated by armed representatives and strong political leaders who used sluice gates in the polders designed to flood the islands. Once the land is waterlogged, there wasn’t much the local communities could do, unless the local anti-shrimp community groups or village committees could regain control of the sluice gates to let the water out.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Successful protests to remain a shrimp-free zone in Polder 22, Khulna, Bangladesh
State or province:Khulna district
Location of conflict:Polder 22
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

There was an attempt to turn Polder 22 with 1485 ha in to shrimp farms. It was resisted by local inhabitants.

Project area:1,485
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:10,700
Start of the conflict:01/01/1985
Relevant government actors:Bangladesh Government, Department of Fisheries
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
International Monetary Fund (FMI)
Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Karunamoyee Martyr - Observance Committee Day, Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) - UK, Nijera Kori, Asia Solidarity Against Industrial Aquaculture
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsLoss of endangered mangrove forests
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Violent targeting of activists
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The struggle is far from over. The local people have been fighting with the shrimp mafia for more than three decades and it is a daily fight to ensure that shrimp aquaculture is resisted in the area.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Report on the Global Shrimp farming by the Environmental Justice Foundation
[click to view]

ACSF-Oxfam Rural Resilience Project. Case Study: Khulna, Bangladesh. Kasia Paprocki. PhD Candidate

Department of Development Sociology. Cornell University. Jason Cons. Assistant Professor of International Relations.Bucknell University. March 2014
[click to view]

Paprocki, K. and Cons, J., 2014. Life in a shrimp zone: aqua-and other cultures of Bangladesh's coastal landscape. Journal of Peasant Studies,41(6), pp.1109-1130.
[click to view]

EIA report of Polder 22, Kulna district, Bangladesh
[click to view]

Adnan, S.,2013. Land grabs and primitive accumulation in deltaic Bangladesh: interactions between neoliberal globalization, state interventions, power relations and peasant resistance. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 40(1), pp.87-128.
[click to view]

Article about the Anti-politics of Climate Change
[click to view]

Article about Karunamoyee Sardar
[click to view]

Interview with Khushi Kabir, a veteran activist for rights of landless people in Bangladesh since 1980.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Murky Waters: Documentary about shrimp farming in Bangladesh
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Brototi Roy
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2450
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