Published:  12:26 AM, 10 March 2019

Prospects and challenges of Bangladesh Delta Plan

Prospects and challenges of Bangladesh Delta Plan

Bangladesh is delta and considered to be the largest in the world. A delta is a geo-morphological area, largely defined by its low lying surface form and location in landscape and coastal area that forms at the mouth of a river. Deltas created from deposition of sediment carried by a river as the flow leaves its mouth. Over long periods, this deposition builds a dynamic and characteristic geographic, ecological and social pattern of the delta and its features.

This delta is deltaic floodplain of the world, comprises unique geographical, physiographic and climatic settings with dynamic hydrological, morphological, landscape and ecological characteristics governed by the world's three great rivers systems -the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. About 80% of the country is featured with rivers and their floodplains.

The soil and water combination makes Bangladeshi land highly fertile with multiple cropping opportunities. It has wisely combined this natural advantage with HYV seed-fertilizer irrigation technology to intensify land cultivation and expand food production, primarily rice. The plentiful of rivers, fresh wetlands, and lakes provide ample scope for fisheries resources.

Bangladesh has been increasingly exploiting the open access to sea. Marine fishing has become a potentially important source of fish. Owing to the growing importance of fishing, the structure of agriculture is slowly changing as the share of crop agriculture is falling and that of fisheries increasing.

Delta has many challenge and opportunity if properly utilized the natural resources. It is threatened with multiple natural hazards like floods such as river flood, flash flood, urban flood, storm surge, cyclones, droughts, erosion including climate change. Climate change effects like intensive and increasing rainfall, sea level rise, temperature variation at extreme level is expected to enhance the intensity and frequency of these hazards.

Delta use to face major inter-related challenges in water safety, food security and land degradation, and is prone to other natural calamities such as river erosion, cyclones and droughts. The challenges are both man-made and natural. The people of Bangladesh is equally characterized by its resilience, the ability to adapt to changing climatic and economic conditions and advantage gained from the abundant natural resources available in the delta.

Bangladesh is a rapidly developing country, envisaging to be middle income country in 2021, though currently dealing with complex problems on safety, food security, excessive pressure of population on the available land and water resources. Current population growth is approximately two million people per year. Due to population growth, economic development and climate change, the pressures will only increase in future.

Moreover, there are some external drivers of change such as population growth and climate change. It is one of the most densely populated countries of the world. Rising population is causing pressure on land and water use, livelihood and economic development. Currently the population increases approximately with two million people per year.

The projected population in the year 2025 is about 180million and about 220 million in the year 2050. The growing population increases pressure on use and consumption of resources and sustainable environment that need to be addressed din managing resources under efficiency and equity principles. Other issues are urbanization, migration and livelihood pattern.

The climate change is a cross-cutting issue. It relates to all other drivers. Climate change has severe impacts on infrastructure, food and livelihood security of the country. On average every five years, up to two-thirds of Bangladesh is inundated by floods that cause substantial damage to infrastructure, housing, agriculture, and livelihoods.

Low-lying coastal areas and costal polders are also at risk from tidal floods, water-logging and severe cyclone induced storm surges. Severe cyclones make landfall on the Bangladesh coastline, either before or after the monsoon, causing storm surges that are sometimes in excess of seven meters.

Crops and the livelihoods of the rural poor in low-lying coastal areas are also devastated by saline water intrusion. All these climate related risks will be exacerbated due to a warmer and wetter future climate that goes beyond historical variations.

The likely changes in natural resources might have effect on bio-physical, social and economic systems. The land management and administration of spatial planning might cause change in agriculture and aquaculture systems, which in turn may affect the food and livelihood security. It is essential to address the ground water, surface water and rain water, land, forest, bio-diversity.

The challenges of economic development are macro and micro economics, infrastructures and livelihood. The most important social issues are: Education, Health, Water Supply and Sanitation and Human Resource Development. Political Development should focus on international co- operation, Regional co-operation, and political consensus in the country.

Bangladesh need water resources management and some various key disciplines to address in the Bangladesh Delta Plan; (a) Land reclamation, (b) Sediment management, (c) River management, (d) Coast and estuary development and management, (e) Wetland management, (f) Water governance, and (g) Conflict management.

Bangladesh has many policies and plans, already in place. A number of sectoral plans have been developed so far in Bangladesh, but they tend to be short term oriented and are independently run by different ministries. There is a felt lack of cooperation, coordination and implementation between ministries as well as between central and de-central levels of government.

There is a high need within the Bangladesh delta to improve the living conditions through better water management and governance. Bangladesh needs a comprehensive and single coordinated plan.

Bangladesh need a plan to be linked to short term plans such as Five Year Plans, Vision 2021, integrated coastal zone management plan 2005 (ICZMP), Agricultural Master Plan for Southern Delta, Haor Master Plan,2010-12 etc.),  Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, 2008 (BCCSAP), the National Water Management Plan (1999), the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Policy and Plan (2005), the BIWTA Master Plan and the Dredging Master Plan etc.

This plan will create an opportunity to harmonization of regional development plans for agriculture, environmental affairs, urbanizations, tourism, etc. with the national plans. The BDP 2100 is essentially an adaptive techno-economic plan involving the interaction of water, land use, ecosystem and climate change with development outcomes.

Hence, hydrology plays a major role in delineating the planning regions for the preparation of the BDP 2100. Using the eight hydrological zones as the starting point, the focus has been sharpened on the magnitude of the natural hazard vulnerabilities facing each of the hydrological regions.

Bangladesh Delta Plan (BDP) 2100 is a ground breaking policy document on water and environmental resource development for the next 100 years in Bangladesh. Delta plan includes all key socio-economic sectors. It has high level national goals (a) Eliminate extreme poverty by 2030, (b) Achieve upper middle income status by 2030 and (c) Being a prosperous country beyond 2041.

The plan has many challenges. In order to achieve the targets, the plan need transparency, open access and building up an evidence-based knowledge hub under requires an institutional set-up that is capable of designing, adjusting, operating, trouble shooting, responding to feedback for improvements and financially sustaining operations in the long run.

Funding is a major constrain for Bangladesh. It spent spends about 0.8% of GDP for water resources. This is very inadequate compared to the needs of the BDP 2100. Important is in this respect the gradually move from donor involvement to national financing, private sector involvement/public-private partnerships. In line with the global and regional experiences the private sector funds may be attracted to following few areas: water treatment, supply, and sewage treatment, irrigation, dredging, land reclamation and inland water transport etc.

Many rivers originate in one country, travel through several other countries and finally drain out to the sea in another country. These rivers are a common resource for all riparians. At present more than half the world's population depends daily upon water resources shared by more than one country.

Some 40% of the world's population lives in river and lake basins that comprise two or more countries and 90% live in countries that share basins. Some of the countries has challenge is non-cooperative behavior of an upstream country causing shortages of water and or flooding for downstream countries. The best solution is to avoid conflict and end up in a lose-lose situation.

Many delta countries sharing a common river have agreed to share the water as a common resource. Good examples include the Indus Basin Treaty (India and Pakistan); the Nile Basin Initiative (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)); the Mekong Basin Commission (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand); the Niger River Basin Authority (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria) and the Rhine River Basin Cooperation Agreements (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland). Bangladesh is yet to resolve the issue of sharing of river water with India. Bangladesh Delta Plan may be a means of strengthening international cooperation with neighboring countries like India, China, Nepal and Bhutan as well as development partners.

Parliament passed the Water Act 2013. The law currently operates through the use of a number of operating principles defined by the National Water Policy of 1999 and the National Water Resource Management document of 2001. Now anther comprehensive law for Delta plan needed for formation of Delta Commission to work as regulating authority of plan, management of delta fund.

The Commission would plan and prepare the Delta Programmes and would set priority as per strategies including adaptive pathways. Programs and projects need to be included in the investment plan, approval and implementation etc.

The writer is a legal economist. Email: mssiddiqui2035@gmail.com

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