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Shrimp Cultivation destroying local livelihood, Bangladesh


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%.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Shrimp Cultivation destroying local livelihood, Bangladesh
State or province:Not applicable
Location of conflict:Bagerhat, Khulna, Noakhali, Shatkhira, Cox's Bazar
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Foreign currency earning from the frozen food sector is 4.23% of the total export earning, shrimp constitutes 80% of the said sector. Again of the total exported shrimp, the larger part comes from the nature as the farm shrimp contributes to about 39%-46%.

Project area:850 hectars plus 1.72 lakh hectars
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:3,000,000
Start of the conflict:22/11/1990
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)
Nijera Kori

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Application of existing regulations
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Embankment and Drainage Act, 1952

The State Acquisition and Tenancy Act, 1950

The Bangladesh Water Development Board Act, 2000

The Environment Conservation Act, 1995

Other documents

Judgement of Shrimp cultivation

List of Shrimp Publication

Meta information

Contributor:Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3695



Picture of Karunamoi