Editor's Note: Anti-trafficking expert Siddharth Kara is the author of “Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia,” providing the first comprehensive overview of bonded labor in South Asia.
In the third chapter of my new book on bonded labour, I explore the shrimp industry of Bangladesh. Chingri (shrimp) harvesting provides a highly illustrative case study of the very powerful ways in which environmental change can directly contribute to human trafficking, debt bondage, and forced labor exploitation, especially in the far reaches of the developing world.
To research the shrimp industry of Bangladesh requires a journey to the cyclone-wracked southwestern reaches of the country.
Here, one finds four stages to Bangladesh’s shrimp industry supply chain: 1 shrimp fry (baby shrimp) collection, shrimp farming, the distribution to processors, and shrimp processing. Each one of these stages is tainted by some form of severe labor exploitation.
Beginning in the 1990s, farmers began to notice more and more saline shrimp in their irrigation channels, primarily due to rising sea levels.
Bangladesh is within close proximity of several multi-billion-dollar shrimp exporting nations such as Thailand, India, and Vietnam, so landowners quickly did the math and realized that low-intensity saline shrimp would generate far more profit than rice or potatoes ever would.