The findings are further reviewed against the backdrop of academic and policy debates on collective action, participation, and management of common property resources.
Bangladesh is one of the least developed countries in the world and the knowledge of water management as well as the struggle against floods is a legend since centuries. Local knowledge is an invaluable resource in itself and local initiatives to manage this vital resource have saved many village communities from becoming clients of the state. However, detailed accounts of this knowledge, the techniques and skills that have been developed over the ages have rarely attracted the attention of Western scientists as far as Bangladesh is concerned. The author's intensive studies have now contributed to fill this gap in a substantial way. They introduce the reader to a little Down world of collective action in rural communities that in most societies has become a task of state administration. As long as these communities organise themselves as local institutions and take their vital interests into their own hands they will manage to overcome many obstacles to their economic development.
This book is essential reading for the concerned general reader and provides professional experts with inspiring accounts of a fascinating world of traditional technologies and organisational practices.
However, I soon learned that international approaches towards farmers' participation in irrigation management were not directly applicable to the socio-technical context of Bangladesh. In order to come up with some viable policy recommendations, it was necessary to know more about how people in rural Bangladesh themselves manage their water resources. In 1997, during my last year with SRP, I was offered the opportunity to contribute the revision of the Bangladesh Ministry of Water Resources' Guidelines for People's Participation in Water Development Projects with a one-year research project on endogenous water management practices in rural Bangladesh. The study constituted an independent component of a broader research project on sustainable water resource management funded by the Government of the Netherlands that was carried out under the auspices of the Centre for Environment, University of Leeds. Most data presented in this study were collected within the framework of that project.
There are many people and institutions I would like to thank for their support to this endeavour. First of all, I would like to thank SRP's socio-economic team, who assisted in fieldwork and to whom I outré much of the insights on local water management practices in rural Bangladesh: Oakum Ali Khan, Moinuddin Tauzin, Sabinal Abed in, Haran-urn-Rashid Pataki, Saiful Alam, Shakawat Husain, Mohsiur Rahman and Anjit Kumar Chakrabarti. Without their profound knowledge of people's water management practices gained over many years of fieldwork in rural Bangladesh, and their endurance and enthusiasm in working with me on this research project this book would never have come to existence.
I would like to thank the BWDB and the various international development agencies that supported SRP, for being persuaded about the importance of such a study. I am particularly grateful to the Netherlands Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGIS) for having funded this research project. I am also grateful to Dr. Shamsul Huda, the then Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, for having appreciated the main findings of this study and for expressing his commitment that they would indeed influence the still ongoing water sector reform programme.
Among my friends and colleagues at SRP, I would like to thank in particular Dieuke Josten, associate expert in water resource management, for the many photographs and the drawings documenting people's initiatives in water management. I owe to my colleague Jan Bron, team leader of SRP's Netherlands Technical Assistance Programme, many interesting professional discussions and much of the technical insight I gained over the time on water management.
Many friends and colleagues have supported me in various ways to undertake the endeavour of writing up this study in its present form. Dr. Kamal Siddique, Senior Government Secretary and respected social scientist, encouraged me to dedicate more time to the analysis of my data; Euroconsult, my former employer, allowed me to take leave and ensured me that I would be welcomed back, whenever I would be ready for it. I am grateful to Prof. H.-P. Muller for having welcomed me back at the Department of Social Anthropology of the University of Zurich, thus offering me a stimulating academic environment and much encouragement during the tedious and solitary period of writing-up this book.
I would like to give my warmest thanks to my friend Dr. Suzanne Hanchett, social anthropologist, for the critical comments and for proof reading the first draft of this book.
I am greatful to Prof. Dr. Franz SchmithUsen and Prof. Dr. Klaus Seeland for their interest in indigenous water management practices in Bangladesh and for offering me the opportunity to publish this book within the series on "People, Forests and Natural Resources."
I am grateful to my husband Dr. Jorge Barenstein for having given me his day-to-day intellectual and emotional support. I thank my beloved daughter Maya for accepting with mature endurance my limited availability and for decorating my office with flowers and colourful drawings.
Finally, with immense gratitude, I would like to dedicate this study to my real teachers in water management, the many women and men I met in rural Bangladesh, who gave me much of their time, who trusted me with their information, and who gave me with their extraordinary courage and resilience a valuable lesson of life. I do hope that somehow, some day, my modest role as a mediator between them and the macro-level policy makers may contribute to close the gap between them.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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