the riverine islands
Chars or Shifting River Islands of Bangladesh
The term ``Char`` is used to characterize the floodplain sediment islands that form and change along Bangladesh's river channels and coast. Chars are dynamic landforms that are continuously eroded and deposited by river currents and tides. They vary in size, shape, altitude, vegetation, and quality of soil. Some chars are stable and permanent, while others are ephemeral and unstable. The Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Meghna rivers all contributed to the establishment of Bangladesh's ``Chars`` riverine islands.
Who lives in the chars?
Millions of people, including farmers, fishermen, and boatmen, live in extreme poverty and precarity on the Chars. These communities reside in bamboo and thatch shacks and confront numerous obstacles, including food insecurity, inadequate infrastructure, lack of clean water, and limited access to education & healthcare, markets, and social protection. In addition, they experience frequent flooding, cyclones, riverbank erosion, salinity intrusion, and landlessness. Despite these hardships, char inhabitants have developed various coping mechanisms and means of subsistence, including agriculture, fishing, livestock husbandry, weaving, and migration.
The Chars are a landscape unlike any other, with no permanent structures and little vegetation. The islands’ susceptibility to inundation during the monsoon season makes agriculture difficult. The islands are also susceptible to erosion, which can result in the loss of entire islands.
Agriculture and fisheries are the primary economic drivers for the Chars. The islands are well-known for their production of rice, corn, and vegetables. Fishing is also a significant economic activity, with communities employing traditional fishing methods such as nets and traps.
Ecological importance of a char:
Chars are also essential to Bangladesh’s ecology and economy. They provide habitats for a variety of flora and fauna, including endangered species like the Bengal tiger, Irrawaddy dolphin, and Gangetic gharial. In addition, they contribute to the nation’s food security, income generation, and employment opportunities.
Nonetheless, chars are threatened by a number of factors, including climate change, upstream interventions, population pressure, land theft, and environmental degradation. These factors influence both the natural processes of char formation and transformation and the socioeconomic conditions of char inhabitants. Therefore, there is a need for sustainable management and development of chars that strikes a balance between human and environmental concerns.
The government of Bangladesh has launched a number of development projects to address the difficulties confronted by the Chars communities. These initiatives include the construction of roads, bridges, and schools, as well as the support of agriculture and fishing.
The Chars of Bangladesh are a distinctive landscape that poses a number of difficulties for the inhabitants of these riverine islands. Despite these obstacles, the Chars offer a unique and rich cultural experience to visitors interested in discovering the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the inhabitants.