II. FLOOD LOSS REDUCTION AND REVIEW OF PAST EXPERIENCES
E. Environmental impacts of flood control projects
3. Impact on human environment
HTSL (1992a) considers that there has been an overall improvement in the quality of life in the project areas, which it investigated, due to the following physical and socio-economic impacts:
- reduced flooding, in terms of level, timing, rate of rise, duration and extent of floods;
- greater protection for infrastructures, with increased human safety and diminished disruption;
- some improvement in human health and nutrition;
- improved access and communications, if only via the embankments themselves;
- substantial, if somewhat inequitable, economic benefits to the people in terms of incomes, employment, land values and credit-worthiness;
- generally favorable social attitudes to the projects.
Some negative impacts of FCD projects may be noted which have a direct bearing on human environment. Loss of land to embankments and other project works and resultant population displacement in a densely populated country is one of the major consequences. Flood control projects require acquisition of substantial land for embankments causing economic hardship to the displaced population. One kilometre of earthen embankment along major and medium rivers requires about 35,000 and 25,000 sq. meter of land respectively. Since the floodplain is densely populated, land acquisition in Bangladesh frequently involves significant population displacement. Land acquisition has always been viewed with concern in Bangladesh for three reasons. First, land is a scarce resource in Bangladesh and any acquisition of agricultural land in particular is seen as a further aggravation of the land use pattern. Second, the people of Bangladesh have a deep-rooted emotional attachment to the land, particularly when it is ancestral. Third, the process of land acquisition is beset with hardship and harassment. According to a household survey involving six projects (HIFAB and MARC, 1992),
as a result of land acquisition. Of the total land in adjoining villages about 15 per cent was lost to acquisition which showed no class bias; proportionately more of the large land owners lost land, while small land owners, if affected, lost proportionately more land. An analytical framework on land acquisition is presented in Figure 12.
Source: HIFAB International and Multidisciplinary Action Research Centre, 1992
Disproportionate distribution of project benefits and disadvantages is another impact. In general farmers gain from FCD projects while fishermen lose. FCD projects also obstruct country boat transportation hampering the only mode of communication especially during the flood season, in many parts of the country, at the same time affecting the livelihood of boatmen. Resultant conflicts between different sections of the society often result in cuts in flood control embankments hampering project performances. In many projects, embankments were cut by the people as a reaction to increased flood risks outside project areas. The extent of cuts observed in different projects is shown in Table 11. The number of cuts by people living inside the project is greater than that by outsiders.
Another cause of concern is the artificial hazard caused by sudden floods due to failure of earthen embankments. Failure due to river bank erosion and breaches during flood flow are quite common, as is shown in Table 11. Damage due to failure of flood control embankments is very high compared to that in the pre-project condition due to increased economic activities after the project.