A bamboo Bandal in Kaonia, Teesta River, Bangladesh. Photo: Bokhtiar Hussein, GUK/Oxfam in Bangladesh
Despite Covid-19, Nodi Boithoks continue to play a key role in Influencing local policies in river governance in Bangladesh.
Nodi Boithoks over the last year in Bangladesh has proved to be an effective influencing tool in creating evidence from the ground, even amid the covid-19 crisis. Like the previous years, the river meetings created a chain of advocacy dialogues that on issues like fisheries, erosion, sand-mining at more than 34 locations in Bangladesh. While the Boithoks in the first 2 years focused more on creating rapport and establishing contacts with the communities, TROSA Year 3 activities focused on developing issue identifications in each location and developing advocacy strategies accordingly. For instance, issues like river erosion, flooding and injustices created by poor fishing management repeatedly came out in almost every Nodi Boithok locations and evidence like ground-level data, Nodi Boithok resolution have been used for influencing. The process aims to enhance communities’ capacity in water governance issues so that they can engage with the concerned duty bearers and influence the governance system with proper evidence to secure their water resource rights.
For example, in the Teesta basin, people in Kalirhat village of Kaonia sub-district faced double whammy this year due to uncertainties created by erosion amid the COVID-19.
Despite the prevailing challenges, local people have been steadfast in using different local techniques to manage river erosion to save their homes - the Bandal being a notable technique. Going forward with the idea, some community leaders from Kalirhat developed action plans to improve the efficiency of Bandals against erosion. As part of the plan, they managed to secure permission from the local government for Bandal installation and finally implemented 11 Bandals in their area in coordination with local partner Gana Unnayan Kendra (GUK). This active community leadership was a result of influencing activities through the Nodi Boithok platform. Nodi Baithok was initiated in early 2018 by TROSA in Bangladesh and is implemented by two partners – Center for Natural Resource Studies (CNRS) and Gana Unnayan Kendra (GUK).
Nodi Boithok translates to "River Meetings", where river-dependent communities in Bangladesh come together to discuss their rights in accessing the river ecosystem services. The main idea of Nodi Boithok is to identify the issues about the rights of the river and riverine communities as well as indigenous solutions to any crisis and gather pieces of evidence so that the grassroots voice are heard in the current water governance management system in Bangladesh.
Women's' Leadership: Despite Covid-19 challenges, local women leaders have shown leadership in water governance related decision-making process. From the Jinjiram to Meghna basin, women participants have always come forward in voicing out their opinions about water governance issues. In this regard, the extraordinary leadership has been shown by Salma Begum from Namapara village, where she not only participated in repairing work of Bandals but also advocated for such community-led technique with the key policymakers like BWDB and WARPO.
Nodi Boithoks at Transboundary Level - replication and sustainability: The advocacy approaches of Nodi Boithoks in Bangladesh have been taken up by TROSA regional partner CUTS International and Jukto India in Meghna basin. In year 3, the Center for Natural Resource Studies (CNRS) and Oxfam in Bangladesh provided on the ground demonstration of Nodi Boithok process to the Jukto-India and Cuts Int team in Meghna basin, which was replicated in Karimganj Assam, India. This regional partnership is expected to identify cross-basin issues in the Meghna basin.
Further, TROSA's strategy focused on engaging with the community volunteers from all Nodi Boithok locations. Apart from sustaining good rapport in the ground amid the covid-19 situation, community volunteers actively supported initiatives to provide information and networking to devise alternative influencing strategies at the local level. Since most the community volunteers are youths, they are expected to continue the water-related activism beyond the project timeline.
Nuzhat Nueary is the Project Officer for Water Cooperation, Oxfam Bangladesh