On the River in Bangladesh

Seeing as most of Bangladesh is a river delta, much of the romantic and nostalgic images that Bangladeshis have about their own country are associated in some way with the river or water in general.

Fish and rice are considered the traditional foods. Canals and ponds for irrigation, transportation, and drainage of flood waters are everywhere. The least expensive way to travel from town to town is still by ferries going up and down the major rivers waterways. The smallest fishing boats are still row boats. Sails used to power the larger and heavier boats, although they are almost totally gone now, replaced by gasoline or diesel engines. Traditional folk songs in Bangladesh often speak of fish and boats and life on or near the river.

Recently, as part of my job, I had the opportunity to travel on a boat up the river to another village outside of our project area and visit a few sites along the way. You might find some of these pictures interesting.

This is a mobile hospital boat visiting a village along the river. A few of these are around in different places in Bangladesh, and as you can probably imagine, are more useful during floods and and other disasters when reaching people in need of care is difficult.

Re-boarding our boat after a visit to a “char”, an island in the middle of the river that is constantly being eroded and shifted by the river’s movement and floods.

These nets are common all around Bangladesh, even in ponds and canals far from the rivers. They include a net and a long bamboo lever system for moving the net around, either placing it on the bottom and raising it up, or pulling it through the water to catch seafood. Often, they are fishing for minnows and other small fish that they will eat in a spicy curry sauce (extremely nutritious, but not exactly my thing). But, they can also use them to catch larger fish and other tasty things crawling along the bottom.

This is a small traditional fishing boat used on the rivers of Bangladesh.

Our ship had a young capitan, but luckily the chief accountant for our project could help him steer the boat out of the dock.

At a stop along the side of a river, we walked a short distance to visit a flood shelter, passing through this jute field along the way. Jute is a plant grown for its fiber, which is often used in rope and carpets (like hemp). You can also eat the leaves like mustard greens when it is young and tender.

This is a larger boat, similar to the one that we were riding, but used for cargo. In this case, it is carrying a load of straw (dried rice stalks) used as animal feed.

This is a picture of a village along the side of the river, with their fruit trees, crops, fishing boats, and hay piles for their animals all visible.