Community-based Water Museum of Bangladesh, Kalapara, Bangladesh

The establishment of a Water Museum by ActionAid Bangladesh evolved in the backdrop of re-imagining rivers from a human and ecological point of view. ActionAid Bangladesh believes in building critical awareness of the need around water commons with the aim of inspiring concerted efforts, starting from conservation to water policy revitalization. The Water Museum is our call to action.

The South Asian nations lack in adequate initiatives to protect the rivers. Biased towards structural intervention, the bilateral treaties and government policies on water management do not look at water from a holistic point of view.

The need to shift our attention to water comes from a history of abuse we have wrought on water and watercourses in a number of ways. Large embankments and structural interventions, uncontrolled urbanization and encroachment, river pollution and mismanagement etc. have taken a toll which has been manifested into desertification, intrusion of salinity in sweet water bodies, erratic rainfall and biodegradation.

The rivers have shrunk. The marine diversity and coastal ecology have drastically worsened. Surface water has fallen and contaminated. Salinity has increased. The lives and the livelihoods of people are badly affected. The more than 800 rivers and tributaries that crisscross Bangladesh’s plain land that gave shape to its economy, culture and heritage are now at risk. So is the general wellbeing of people.

The Water Museum of Bangladesh is a community-led museum, and it is home to a number of permanent collections: water samples of 87 trans-boundary rivers, artifacts of riverine communities, infographics on water footprints, the riverine activities and the Kuakata Declaration (see below), a Bangladesh’s rivers map and a list of Bangladesh’s trans-boundary rivers, rivers-related literature, research books and documentaries.



Temporary exhibitions

Local Pitha Utsav fair (2019)

A local ‘Pitha Utsav’ was arranged by ActionAid Bangladesh during the 4th International Water Conference titled, ‘River: A Living Being’ in 2019 at Water Museum, Kalapara, Patuakhali.
Members of different projects of Local Rights Programming (LRP) participated in the Pitha festival, together with the women members of ActionAid projects. More than 25 types of pitha were exhibited in the fair. Also local women entrepreneurs displayed and sold different kinds of local seasonal food items. In continuation of this, the renowned band ‘Joler Gaan’ presented water related songs for the evening.


Kuakata Sea Beach

Kuakata, locally known as Sagar Kanya (Daughter of the Sea), is one of the most beautiful rare beauties with a series of coconut trees, sandy beach of blue Bay and a feast for the eye of Bangladesh. It has unique nature for offering the full view of the rising and setting the sun in the water of Bay of Bengal. Kuakata sea beach is the southernmost virgin beach, a sanctuary for migratory winter birds. The tourists can take auto rickshaw or bus or motorbike from Water Museum to Kuakata Sea Beach.

Buddha Mandir

Kuakata is a pilgrimage for both Hindu and Buddhist communities. Four kilometers away from Kuakata beach, there is a Buddhist Temple at Misripara. The age of the temple is about 100 years. In the temple, there is a statue of meditating Gautama Buddha. This is the biggest Buddhist statue is South Asia. There are also 200 years old wells. People can also go to visit the 100 years old ancient tradition and cultural heritage of Rakhine tribal families.

Sundarban, the world’s largest mangrove forest

The Sundarbans is one of the largest contiguous mangrove forests in the world. It lies in the delta of Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. It is adjacent to the border of India’s Sundarbans. It is the only mangrove habitat in the world for Panthera tigris tigris species that is one of the last preserved of Bengal tigers. It has a number of rare species like the Indian python and Irrawaddy dolphins. It was declared UNESCO World Heritage for its unique ecosystem in 1987. Trawlers or speedboat are the best options from the beach to enjoy the scenic beauty of Sundarbans.




Community engagement on water issues

There are 10 committees, 7 village committees and a river protection committee made of 200 members working for the water museum. The members of these committees work mainly to rescue illegally occupied riverbanks and khash ponds. Moreover, they also supervise and take necessary actions to prevent salt-water intrusion in the agricultural lands. On the other hand, they are continuously working to make people aware of the protection and the importance of the river in our lives by participating in various meetings and committees of the local government.

Kuakata Declaration 2016

There are 800 rivers and tributaries in Bangladesh, and 150 of them are trans-boundary rivers. Only 57 are recognized as trans-boundary through the bilateral negotiations with the neighboring countries. So to secure water-centric cultural heritage and traditions and to preserve and uphold the heritage, ActionAid Bangladesh claimed some demands and proposals to the concerned authority on 17 March, 2016. This is known as Kuakata Declaration.


Water walk 2017

In 2017, ActionAid International Federation decided to organize a South Asia trans-boundary Water Walk program following some mobilizations and public deliberations from community to national cross-boundary level. The regional coordination groups from Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan together with grassroots peoples’ organizations, civil-society groups, think tankers and policy makers were promoting ‘Water Commons.’

The trans-boundary Water Walk started from Gandak river at Nawalparasi district of Nepal on the 7th of February and, crossing the Ganges, joined Indian activists in Bangladesh near Padma river at Godagari Upazila of Rajshahi city.



International conferences on water

Since the establishment of Water Museum in 2014, ActionAid Bangladesh has organized an international conference per year, until the COVID-19 Pandemic hit the world in 2020. The conferences went beyond disciplinary boundaries to embrace multidisciplinary perspectives on water and trans-boundary rivers, covering a range of thematic areas. The first International Water Conference took place in March 2016 at the Water Museum. The 6th International Water Conference was organized and conducted online, and government and non-government officials, academics, researchers, river activists, students, development partners, community people and media personnel from all over the world attended the three-day conference on the 27th-29th January, 2021.  During this conference the community members of the Water Museum of Kalapara participated, too.