Fellow Since 1995
Wetland Resource Development Society
This profile was prepared when Rezaul Haq was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Rezaul Haq has seen at first hand the futility of attempts to control nature in Bangladesh, which lies in a vast flood plain. More than half the country is covered by water for at least part of the year, and images of devastating Bangladeshi floods have become familiar to the world. But Rezaul realizes that the wetlands offer resources to alleviate the widespread poverty of the people who live there. He thus operates in direct contrast to the traditional development view, held by the government, that wetlands are wastelands that need to be transformed before they can be of use to humans. There is a growing consensus among scientists, the international citizens' community, and environmentally conscious government officials that further degradation of wetlands poses a permanent threat to all ecosystems. In his Bangladeshi context, Rezaul focuses that insight on the threat to sustainable livelihoods of the rural poor; and he has created a model to both advocate for less interventional wetland policy and to teach local communities how to make a living from what thrives there naturally. As part of his preparation, he studied regions where heavy rains and flooding had destroyed agricultural attempts within the embankments of the government's Coastal Embankment Project (CEP). There he saw people whose homes had been washed away making wise use of the plant and animal life that had re-emerged in the area. His project builds upon such local initiative and adds the tools of science, environmental education, and appropriate technology in income-generating models that can be adopted by other communities. In spite of their negative experience with the CEP, local people are receptive of Rezaul when they see the simplicity and high returns of his techniques.