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Different Jolmohals And There Locations Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 3666 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The fisheries sector of Bangladesh is a quick yielding sector, which augments growth and can contribute to poverty reduction. The 4.57 million hectors of available inland water bodies contribute 80% of the total fish production and offers a great opportunity for the poor fishing community to have an improved income through increased production. 12.2 million People use this water bodies as their source of income (both direct and indirect) that comprises 24.6% of the total employment of Bangladesh. Around 0.77 million fishermen are dependent on the availability of public water bodies for their livelihood. However, in spite of having abundance of inland water resources, the fisheries sector is not experiencing its full potential growth in terms of employment generation, increased production and demand for nutrition because of the improper distributions of these inland water resources. Most of the fishers are poor and in the fisheries sector this poverty is associated with economic exclusion from high value water bodies, social marginalisation of traditional fishers, class exploitation by moneylenders and leaseholders, and political disempowerment from decisions affecting fisher livelihoods.

The inland fisheries sector includes baor, coastal aquaculture, river and estuaries, beels and haors, lake, flood plains, canals and ditches and together they called Jolmohal. A more formal definition of jolmohal according to the “Jolmohal management policy 2009” is –

Jolmohal is a waterbody where water remains in some times or throughout the year and is known as Haor, Baor, Beel, Jheel, Pond, Ditch, Lake, Dighi, Khal, River, Sea etc. Such Jolmohals can be closed or open. Closed Jolmohal will have defined boundary whereas open Jolmohal will not.

The power of distributing this jolmohal among the people is held by the government. However, it has been noted that this distribution is not fair. Most of the benefit is being enjoyed by the middlemen and other powerful non- fisher people. This is creating a financial as well as a social cost. Social welfare is suffering; the neediest people are being ignored. But the government has an obligation towards them and there needs should get priority and policies should be taken to ensure that.

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Different Jolmohals and There Locations:

As stated earlier jolmohal is a water body, which consist of different types of inland fishery sector and they can be found in different areas of the country. As a first step in trying to sort out a rather complex situation, it is helpful to distinguish different types of naturally occurring water bodies. In addition to rivers and floodplains, this category includes a number of other entities that are outlined below –

Figure: Types of naturally occurring water body



Where found


Low lying depressions between two or more rivers functioning as small internal drainage basins



Lakelike depressions, sometimes found within haors retaining water permanently or for the greater part of the year. Adjoining beels may merge into a single continuous sheet of water under a unified floodplain during the wetter part of the year

Almost everywhere


Drainage channels connecting beels to adjacent rivers

Almost everywhere


Ox-bow lake made of former meandering bends in river that got cut-off from the main stream. Not strictly part of the open-water system

Jessore,Jhenaidah, Kushtia

Beyond this, and with regard to the wider category of water bodies as a whole, a number of further distinctions are important.

Individual water bodies may be:

Naturally occurring or constructed by individuals and communities. For example- Kaptai Lake. The only large artificial inland is Kaptai reservoir formed as a consequences of hydro- electric dam completed in 1963 and which has flooded over 76,600 ha of pristine forested valleys and cultivated land in the Chittagong hill tracks.

State (khas) or privately owned

Closed where fish cannot move beyond their boundaries and can therefore readily be privately appropriated or open where they can move freely.

Open access or leased for private individual use

Seasonal in which case all fish must be harvested in a single season, or perennial with potential to build up stocks for harvesting in later years

Waqf estates and Debottar property, which support Muslim and Hindu religious organisations respectively.

Policies and issues taken over the YEARS:

From the British period to the present day, a number of fisheries policies, regulations and acts have been introduced for the management of water bodies and other fishery resources. Prior to 1757 fishers and farmers had customary rights over open water fisheries including rivers, land depressions, lakes, oxbow lakes and floodplains. At that, time fisheries were managed by local fishing community as common property under various system of tenure. During early stages of British administration, fishers had some customary rights over all water bodies.

The situation changed in 1793 when Zamindars were granted rights (jalmohal) over rivers and other waters under the Permanent Settlement Act which was designed to generate revenue for the Colonial Government. As with land, these were then sub-divided among jotedars, using a leasing system that has continued with only slight modification until the present day. In the large majority of cases, the lessees (Ijaradars) were not fishermen themselves. The fishermen they controlled were low caste Hindus. The most able of these over time became informal managers, collecting tolls and taxes on behalf of the jotedars. Muslims generally did not fish, but some lower status Muslims did became traders. Therefore, during the 19th and 20th centuries the colonial state created a legal and regulatory framework, which favored landlords and leaseholders who were drawn largely from the non fishing class and groups and who increasingly saw their water tax rights as valuable commercial and financial assets that needed to be protected from unauthorized fishers. The fishers had to come to some agreement with them in order to survive.

After the partition of India in 1947, the new state of Pakistan abolished the zamidari system in 1950 and took control of waterways through the “State Acquisition and Tenancy Act 1950” and the Department of Revenue assumed responsibility for all jalmohal outside Reserved Forest areas. Therefore, a large number of these water bodies were now owned by the state but property rights over them was temporarily transferred to the fishers mainly through a leasing process. From 1950 to 1965, open auction of leasing water bodies started where highest bidder were granted lease. The method of fixing the maximum revenue prior to auction was to average the last three terms lease value than to increase it by 10%. In fixing the lease value, the productivity of fishery was not considered. The aim of the leasing policy was to raise state revenue. However, during 1965 in an attempt to help poor fishermen, preference in the granting of jamohal was given to fishermen’s co-operative societies registered with the Dept of Co-operatives

After the independence the government of Bangladesh took several policies in regard to the jolmohal management which have been described below-

1973- 1974: Preference was given to registered fishers cooperatives in leasing out the water bodies provided the cooperative agreed to pay highest bid money, the numbers of which as a result mushroomed. However, this provision was easily circumvented, with former Ijaradars generally using co-ops as fronts, taking jalmohals on sublease arrangements and retaining effective control.

1974- 1984: Under a presidential order, all jalmohals were transferred from MOL to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. Initial attempts were made to move from purely revenue-based to more sustainable systems of management, but before this could not be fully implemented. Restrictions placed on leasing out water bodies to the registered fisher cooperative societies through negotiation for 1-year lease for river and canal and 3 year lease for closed and semi closed types of fisheries such as lake, boar and ponds. If such a fishers association was not available or the terms and conditions of lease were not acceptable to the government then the water bodies would put up for open auction where anybody including the non-fishers could bid.

1984 – 1986: Leasing to the fishers cooperative societies through negotiation was replaced by open auction system but limited to fishers cooperative societies. Open auction system of leasing water bodies was subsequently changed to bidding by sealed tender system, all other conditions remaining unchanged. Jalmohals <20 acres were transferred to the newly formed Upazilla parishads as a means of augmenting their income, whilst those >20 acres reverted to MOL control.

1986- 1995: To ensure biological management of fishery resources and to establish the right of fishers to water bodies a licensing introduced under the New Fisheries Management Policy (NFMP) in 1986 in selected location and the affected jalmohals were placed under direct management of the Department of Fisheries. The aim of this policy was to reserve some water bodies for genuine fisherman defined as those who depended on full time fishing for livelihoods. The leasing system was abolished and fishing rights were directly licensed to fishers. Credit was made available, and different institutional arrangements (including NGO management) were explored. Progress was slow, with MOL unwilling to give up its major source of income under circumstances where net revenue from land was very small and other vested interests were opposed. Annual gear specific harvests were introduced to ease the pressure on fisheries by regulating the harvests. Limited user rights to genuine fishermen were meant to ensure that they received a greater share of the fishing income. Nevertheless, this had limited success and government revenue decreased; fishers sometimes failed to pay license fees on time because of the failure to link the license fee with the productivity and biological potential of the water bodies, so for many fishers the license fees were too high and increased yearly which overtime put them out of reach of many. In addition, non-fishers continued to control water bodies assisted by wealthier fishers. Because of the failure, this policy ended in 1996 since when project based approaches involving communities have been adopted.

1995- 1996 (Open Access Policy): Leasing system for flowing rivers was abolished and fishing was declared open to all free of cost except to those who catch fish by using mechanized boats. The policy was established for the benefit of poor fishers but as there was, no control fishing pressure increased greatly and threatened fish stocks. Additionally influential people and mastans were reported as controlling the rights to river water bodies in some areas and to have harassed and exploited fishers.

Community Based Fisheries Management Project: The CBFM Project started field activities in different locations from late 1995 to mid 1997. The project is a partnership of government (DOF), five NGOs – Caritas, Proshika, BRAC, Banchte Shekha and CRED, and ICLARM. CBFM is a partnership arrangement where management responsibility is shared between the government and fishing communities. Under this approach, the users can participate to the management of fisheries to ensure its sustainable use and equitable distribution of benefits.

The Fourth Fisheries Project: This project started in 2000, involved the NGOs extensively for empowering the fishing community so that the community of project beneficiaries, i.e., the fishers, could retain the benefits of mitigatory and compensatory interventions undertaken by the project. The project involved 14 NGOs in 49 sites for empowering community institutions. In essence, they were posted to ward off the capture attempts made by the rural elites by empowering the fishers.

The Water Body Management Policy 2005 and its shortcomings: Although the 2005 policy aimed at ensuring full access of poor fishermen into the public water bodies, however there were several drawbacks and constraints in its implementation as follows:

The revenue centric policy only allowed the affluent people to get lease and left out the poor fishermen.

Did not specify the property rights of the lease holder to be bankable.

Insufficient coordination and discussion on the leasing strategies among the relevant ministries and stakeholders.

Lack of encouragement and involvement of private sector investment.

The short term leasing policy held back the fishermen from introducing any scientific cultivation method.

Jolmohal Management Policy 2009: The government adopted the ‘Jalmahal Management Policy-2009’ with the cabinet approval on June 23 through bringing some changes to that of 2005. These changes or amendments are-

While the Upazilla fisheries officer will recommend whether the shamity members are actually fishermen or not, the Upazilla Water Body Management Committee will prepare and finalize the fishermen group living adjacent to a particular water body.

The management committee headed by a deputy commissioner (DC) is authorised to lease out khas jalmahal among the community. Local lawmakers have been made advisers to the district and upazila committees with the upazila chairmen alternative advisers to the upazila committees

Any fishermen community / group / shamity living adjacent to an water body will be become the beneficiary of that particular water body.

The lease period for the closed water bodies up to 20 acres has increased to 3 years from only 1 year.

The lease-holders are not allowed to sub-lease the water bodies and must use it only for fish production.

The Upazilla and District water body management committee will consist of representatives from the private sector, civil society, department of agriculture and law enforcement agency.

The District Commissioner (DC) will annually update the list of public water body and notify in the notice board, local dailies and websites for the stakeholders.

The public water bodies under different ministries will be allocated to the fishermen or samity instead of previous target group.

The commercial banks and financial institutions will provide loan to the fishermen or their community in order to scientifically manage the leased water bodies.

A database will be prepared and updated with information regarding the public water bodies of the country.

Ministry of land will introduce public private partnership to manage the water bodies for improving the lives of the fisherman.

A coordination committee comprising of concerned ministries will be formed at national level for the proper management of public water bodies.

Even though the Jolmohal Management Policy 2009 is a better policy than the previous one, but still there are some problems regarding this policy, they are-

Jalmahal management policy does not effectively safeguard the interests of the actual grassroots fishermen.

The provision for keeping local lawmakers and upazila chairmen as advisers in the management committee will create scope for politicisation and conflict. The genuine fishermen community will not be benefited with a management dominated by bureaucrats

In summary from the 18th century to the present, Bangladesh’s jolmohal’s management has been dominated by private leasing and controlled by non- fishers business and political elites. Most of the policies and rule instituted during this period led to a transfer of property rights from the traditional fishers to the socially powerful agents, the leases and other commercially non- fishers interest.

Reasons for the failure of these policies

The polices taken over the years to manage the jolmohal by the government hasn’t been successful as the genuine fishermen didn’t get the benefit but the middle man enjoyed it. Therefore, social welfare actually did not increase. To look it more closely we can take each of this policy and examine their problems.

The first policy taken was, lease system, which was used to increase the government revenue, so lease was granted to the highest bidder. Due to lack of capital and the control of local political authorities by non fishing interest group fishers were outbid or there cooperative was controlled by outside finances and the lease was allocated to the non-fishing population who wanted to make profit, which did not help the poor fishermen. Similarly, the open auctioning system failed which also granted the right to the non-fishing population.

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The problem with the licensing system was that while determining the license fee they did not link it with the productivity and biological potential of the water bodies. Therefore, for many fishermen the licensee fee was too high. In addition, government failed to provide them with technical & financial support, there was also a continuous threat from other interest group. This put a pressure on the fishermen and the benefit from the licensing declined.

Another policy taken was, open access fishing. As with the other policy, in this case also the influential people controlled the rights to river water bodies. Furthermore, the open access system put a pressure on the resource since to maximize the profit nobody gave a thought to the issue of sustainability.

To overcome the problem with the middlemen the NGO’s stepped in and there intervention helped many but in time some corruption was also noted. Most of the time they were given free rein so they had the tendency to exploit the power.

The recent jolmohal policies have considered the environmental aspects, restricted the subleasing system and the intervention of the non- fishing community. However, since all this have to done on the district level there is still sufficient chance of the middlemen and other local powerful interest groups intervention. Therefore, there is a good possibility that this policy will not be successful in ensuring the welfare of the fishermen.

Possible Solution

As we can see, no form of ijahara or leasing process has been very successful in ensuring the welfare of the fishers. There can be several possible solutions to this but the most effective would be to create an aquaculture for the fisherman. In other words, the fishing right should be given to the fishers directly for a long period, at a minimum cost to enable them to pay the amount and the government should oversee the progress. This will save them from the middlemen’s intervention. If the fishers have the exclusive right to fish then they themselves would think of the sustainability issue and this will also give them incentive, so productivity will increase. This right to the fishermen should be given on a community basis. The government revenue may decrease from this process but they can earn more revenue from the export of the fish. To improve the situation and to protect the genuine fishermen, they need to be empowered with monetary and logistic help and capacity building. For this purpose, the government needs to give them the support. Therefore, instead of an ijahara process if there is a cooperation among the government and the fishers then there is a possibility of increased in fishers welfare.


As we have seen from the earlier discussion that the proper distribution of jolmohal is very important both from the financial and social perspective. However, the policies taken since 1757 have only been successful in depriving the fishermens from their natural right to fish from the water and the situation has worsened overtime. To improve the situation the only possible and viable solution possible is the cooperative one because a proper and necessary monitoring is not possible of the ijhara system which is increasing the social cost and benefiting the non-fishers. Therefore, government needs to consider the cooperative system to ensure the welfare of the fishers.


Islam ,Gazi Md. Nurul. Abdullah, Nik Mustapha Raja. Viswanathan, K. Kuperan. & Yew ,Tai Shzee . “AUGMENTING FISHERS’ WELFARE AND LIVELIHOOD ASSETS THROUGH



THOMPSON, P.M., P. SULTANA, M.N. ISLAM, M.M. KABIR, M.M. HOSSAIN and M.S. KABIR. “An Assessment of Co-management Arrangements Developed by the Community Based Fisheries Management Project in Bangladesh” CBFM Project 1999

“Government Jolmohal Management Policy, 2009” Ministry of Land; 23 June, 2009

“Govt to revise Jalmahal Management Policy to increase fish production” The Financial Express 8 September 2008

“Inland Open Water Management”

“Jalmahal policy won’t help grassroots fishermen” The Daily Star , 26 July,2009

“LAND POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION IN BANGLADESH”, CARE SDU Reports and Studies, Land policy Literature Review Final, May 2003

“Public Water Body Management Policy 2009 Beginning of a new era for the poor fishermen of Bangladesh” News Issue 3, 18 August 2009


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