Participatory wetland resource governance in Bangladesh: an analysis of community-based experiments in Hakaluki Haor

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Khan, S M Munjurul Hannan
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Jurisdictional ownership of all natural resources, including wetlands and river channels, belongs to the state in Bangladesh, and access to and control over wetland resource are determined by the existing top-down, command-and-control, bureaucratic management regimes. Grounded solely in the economic aspects of natural resources, the wetland management objective of the government focuses on rent-seeking to maximize revenues and other economic benefits. At the operational level, this approach presumes bounded and closed economic and social systems and an equilibrial environment. The purpose of this research was to investigate options for institutionalizing participation of stakeholders in wetland (haor) resource management. It was intended to seek alternatives to the state-governed management approach (SMA) and find a means of governance that would encompass multi-stakeholders in the management of natural resources. The specific objectives of this research were to: i) Examine the state-governed management approach and the relationship between formal and informal institutions concerned with access and control over wetland (haor) resources; ii) Analyze, as an alternative to SMA, the processes and structures of stakeholders’ participation and deliberations in decision-making; and iii) Examine the potential for multi-stakeholder governance in wetland resource management. This research selected three development initiatives in Hakaluki haor (major wetland of Bangladesh) for assessment. A set of PRA methods, which included baseline surveys, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, semi-structured interviews, individual discussion meetings, addah (informal chatting with friends and fellows), and workshops, was used during the research to attain the objective of the study. The research findings have revealed that the community-based organizations (CBOs) were capable of contributing effectively to the community-based or co-management approach in wetland resource management. Establishing a multi-level stakeholder governance system as an institutional structure and process is necessary to sustain CBOs’ operations in decision-making. The participation of local resource users would require appropriate degree of integration of the “bottom-up” and “top-down” approaches to include all relevant stakeholders in the decision-making processes at multiple levels of social organizations. This alternative approach could be an effective instrument to facilitate the deliberations of stakeholders and to strengthen institutional linkages to engender benefits to the local resource users.
Wetland, Governance, Participatory, Management