The Hakaluki Haor is one of the largest fresh water wetlands in South Asia and an important breeding ground of the local fish species. The haor covers an area of approximately 18,000 hectors including 276 large and small beels within the area.This haor is an important habitat especially for indigenous species of fish. To conserve the indigenous fish resources, the government declared 12 water bodies of the haor as permanent fish sanctuary. History said that, once major area of Hakaluki Haor was covered by swamp forest. But because of human intervention that swamp forest was destroyed. People used the swamp trees as fuel wood, materials for house construction and other purposes. On the other hand, during the dry season when the water gets off from the haor, people use the barren land for agriculture and for grazing. So to convert into agricultural land, people destroyed the swamp forest gradually. But the swamp forest was playing an important role in Haor biodiversity. Swamp forest is the safe habitat for fish species. It is used as vital breeding ground for indigenous fish. It plays the role to prevent illegal fishing. This forest was supporting extensively in increasing fish production in this haor areas. Moreover, this forest was the habitat for birds including migratory birds. But, due the destruction of swamp forest, illegal fishing area increased, destroyed fish breeding ground and as a result the fish production and birds were reduced day by day.
No, this is not the ending part of the Hakaluki Haor. A hope has emerged and recently it seems that, in the raised land of different water bodies locally named Kandas, again there are naturally grown and planted swamp species. With the cooperation of some project and local administration, some local community based conservational organisations are trying to protect the newly grown swamp forests. Different foreign donors who funded the projects are trying to restore the swamp forest by planting swamp plant species, especially Hijol and Koroach. National NGO Centre for Natural Resource Studies (CNRS) has been working in Hakaluki Haor for about 15 years and planted huge seedlings of swamp species Hijol and Korach through different projects like as SEMP, CWBMP, CBECA, CREL project. The raised land of Birali Khal is one of them where they planted 16,025 Hijol and Korach species at 2003 and now it has turned into a natural swamp forest and is serving as safe habitat for fish, indigenous and migratory birds and other wildlife. As a regular initiatives, CNRS implemented USAID’s CREL project planting a total of 192,550 seedlings of swamp species on the raised land of Gojua, Baiya, Koyerkona beel fish sanctuaries in 2014 and 2015. A number of guards and local community organisations are taking care of this swamp reforestation process jointly.
During a few years, the Forest Department also tried to establish swamp forest by planting huge swamp species. Recently a survey conducted by the CREL project shows that the survival rate of the swamp plants around Baiya and Gojua beel is more than 90%. The land seems like a piece of greenery covered with swamp species. Joint initiatives of the government and local communities and the commitment of political leaders can protect the swamp forest. It must be borne in mind that if the plantation can be protected, a good portion of Hakaluki Haor will be covered by swamp forest and it will play important role in stopping illegal fishing and providing fish and birds a safe habitat. As a result, the threatened indigenous fish will return back into their safe environment of Hakaluki Haor in near future.
Palash Sarker, Sreemangol, Moulvibazar