The National Economic Council (NEC) approved the "Bangladesh Delta Plan (BDP) 2100" in September 2018, to be implemented over the next 100 years, aiming to raise the GDP growth to nine percent by 2030. We all know that various types of natural calamities like flood, high tide, drought, cyclone and riverbank erosion are close companions of Bangladesh due to its geographical location. In the Delta Plan, there are three higher-level national goals and six specific goals. The higher-level goals are: eliminating extreme poverty by 2030, elevation to upper-medium income country by 2030 and becoming a developed one by 2041. The specific goals are: ensuring protection from the devastation of floods and climate change, water safety and attaining more skills in water use, building an integrated and sustainable riverine area and estuary management, preservation of wetlands and ecology and ensuring their proper utilisation, building effective organisations and justified good governance for ensuring intra- and inter-countries water resources, and ensuring optimum level of integrated use of land and water resources.
The government is gradually forming a special fund titled "Bangladesh Delta Fund", for implementing its long-term integrated master plan, "Delta Plan 2100" is to harness the huge potentials of Bangladesh through water resource management, ensuring food and water security and tackling disasters. It would require implementation of a good number of new projects apart from development and maintenance of the existing infrastructures for accomplishing the Delta Plan 2100. To implement the Delta Plan, a 2.5 percent of the Gross National Income (GNI) will be required till 2030. Under the plan, 80 projects have been proposed for implementation within 2030. Out of these projects, 65 are related to physical infrastructures while 15 to institutional capability, skill development and research, involving Tk 2,978 billion (around USD 37 billion).The Mission for the BDP 2100 is “To ensure long-term water and food security, economic growth and environmental sustainability while effectively reducing vulnerability to natural disasters and building resilience to climate change and other delta challenges through robust, adaptive and integrated strategies, and equitable water governance”. This long-term vision needs to be translated into specific goals or targets for its implementation. This is done by combining long-term development outcomes in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction in the Perspective of Vision 2041. All projects can be started within the next eight years, though given with the scale and programmatic nature of some investments, construction in some cases will extend over decades.
The total investment need for new projects and maintenance of new and old projects is about 2.5% of GDP per annum. Presently it is only 0.8% of GDP. Out of the total requirement 2.5% of GDP, some 0.5% of GDP could be funded by the private sector. About 2% of GDP would need to be executed through the public sector. Of which about 0.5% of GDP would need to be spent on operations and maintenance activities and the remaining 1.5% of GDP should come under the BDP 2100 investment plan. It may be noted that at present operations and maintenance are studied thoroughly and the actual amount may not even be more than 0.1% of GDP.
Bangladesh has undertaken a project of four years to support and follow-up implementation of the BDP 2100 with assistance from the Government of the Netherlands. Dredging and Excavation of Canals and Small Rivers in 64 Districts (1st Phase): Total Project Cost will be BDT 2279.55 Crore (US$ 268 million). Dredging/ Re-excavation of Bangali-Karatoa-Fuljor-Hurasagor River System and Bank Protection Project is underway. Total Project Cost scores BDT 2335.60 crore (US$ 275 million). The Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) has already started execution of the project. Urir Char Cross Dam project in Noakhali with a total cost of BDT 533 crore (US$ 63 million is now awaiting approval of the Planning Commission. The World Bank (WB) has already expressed its interest in financing the Investment Plan of the BDP 2100. The WB has undertaken a Feasibility Study for “The Multi-Phase Jamuna Integrated River Basin Management (a part of Integrated Jamuna-Padma Rivers Stabilisation and Land Reclamation) project, which is expected to be completed by December 2021.
Priority areas are-flood protection, river erosion control, river management including river training and navigability, urban and rural water supply and waste management, and urban flood control and drainage system. These are highly capital-intensive investments. Firstly, investments in flood control, river erosion, river management including dredging, training and navigability are amongst the highest priority investment areas and will likely absorb 35% of the total Delta investments. Secondly, the investments in urban water supply, sanitation, waste management and drainage in major cities coupled with rapidly growing concentration of population and economic density in these areas suggest that this category will absorb at least 25% of all delta investments. Thirdly, the lack of water and sanitation services in small towns and rural areas suggest that the need to achieve the government’s targets for safe water supply and sanitation for these areas will call for massive investment in these services. This category may absorb as much as 20% of the total BDP 2100 investment up to FY 2031.
So far the signed documents are: MoU between the Government of Bangladesh and the Netherlands on May 2012 for formulation of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 and MoU between the Government of Bangladesh, the Netherlands, and the World Bank on June 16, 2015 regarding strengthening water management in Bangladesh Delta. The BDP 2100 considers the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) with the economic growth and development. This approach outlined a series of goals included in the Delta Plan 2100 which are in consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are: water and food security, climate change and environmental sustainability, people's livelihood, economic growth, social development, knowledge development, biodiversity, forestry and agriculture production. The goals also include development of effective institutions and equitable governance within the boundary and trans-boundary water resources management.
In order to achieve the goals, the BDP 2100 has identified six hotspots based on hydrological characteristics, These are: Barind and Drought-prone Areas, The Chattogram Hill Tracts, the Coastal Zones, the Haor and Flash Flood Areas, the River Systems and Estuaries, and the Urban Areas. However, the BDP 2100 needs to recognise a few key elements that have profound impact not only on the hydro-morphology, ecology, environment and economics, but also the livelihood of the people. These are: Knowledge Development Plan: a comprehensive educational plan for the people of all walks of life, Bay of Bengal and the Blue Economy: harnessing the potentials of the most precious water body, Trans-boundary Watersheds: to gain better understanding of the watersheds that is not within our political jurisdiction, but has indelible impact on the Delta, Water Quality: to ensure physical, chemical and biological integrity of surface waters in the Delta, and Delta Science Foundation: to promote research and innovation to face challenges of the Delta.The BDP 2100 is a long-term, inter-sectoral, water-centric and techno-economic plan. Therefore, Bangladesh must position itself to constantly develop capacity for understanding of sciences, research and training to cope with the ever-changing challenges. It is important that the BDP 2100 provides a comprehensive educational plan ranging from elementary school to graduate level programmes. It is important that the BDP 2100 supports research, disseminate information, and develop programmes with other relevant government agencies to quantify the economic value of the resources of the Bay of Bengal. A comprehensive plan for investment in educational and research institutions, environmental restoration and water-related infrastructure can be made. In addition, the Plan should quantify the return on investment and the ecosystem benefits and services generated by the Bay of Bengal. These efforts should be aimed at exploring the "Blue Economy" and ensure that businesses, communities and agriculture are able to leverage the Delta's abundant water resources (both fresh water and sea water) to support strong economies and a high quality of life for the people.
The Bay of Bengal has fuelled the development and economic growths in the region for centuries. It provided a maritime transportation system that facilitated efficient movement of goods and commodities, supporting cluster of industries such as manufacturing, shipbuilding, agribusiness, commercial fishing and energy exploration. The BDP 2100 may include a plan to establish a centre for research and development of technologies to utilise and manage the Bay of Bengal water resources. While Bangladesh is blessed with the bounty of natural resources like the Bay of Bengal, it is also highly vulnerable to natural hazards. It has a long history of resilience and capacity of coping with major natural disasters. The government and the people have a wealth of experience in preparing for, and responding to disaster events. However, what Bangladesh is significantly lacking in its capacity to develop a storm forecast modeling and observing system. Being a world leader in developing comprehensive planning and implementing operational disaster management, Bangladesh needs to focus on capacity building on tidal forecast modelling and research. Institutional researchers and experts should be able to participate in national efforts to translate hard science of natural events and climate change prediction into tangible, community-level actions.
A multi-agency programme with relevant government agencies can produce a sustainable and comprehensive tidal and storm surge forecasting modelling and observing system for the estuarine and coastal waters including the Bay of Bengal. The system will function both as an operational and research tool to be used not only to support adaptation to natural hazards and disaster risk reduction, but also to foster a sustained economic growth.
One of the key issues of the BDP 2100 is communicating the results of the forecasting model to the officials and decision makers involved in disaster and risk management. The system will also share scientific results and resources with other governmental agencies such as the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), the Ministry of Water Resources (BWDB), the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, the Ministry of Shipping, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, the Ministry of Environment and Forest, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Meteorological Department. The vision is to develop a Flood Alert System (FAS). The FAS will be the portal to disseminate the flood and surge information. It is envisioned that an automated text messaging system will send alerts to appropriate authorities when predetermined locations in coastal regions are likely to exceed a flood depth threshold. The forecasts will also continue to be displayed on the government websites and large LED displayed screens hosted in the Prime Ministers Office, relevant Ministries and governmental agencies directly involved in natural disaster and risk management.
The modelling tool would be useful to address and mitigate various coastal issues, such as, increasing drainage capacity and reducing floods, water-logging, salinity intrusions, riverbank and coastal erosions. Scientists and engineers in academic and governmental and non-governmental sectors will have a scientific edge to address short-term and long-term hydro-meteorological, climatologically, social, economical and geopolitical challenges. The scientific and technical capabilities will allow Bangladesh to effectively formulate its maritime strategy and gain upper hand in projecting its interest in the highly contested and strategically important Bay of Bengal.
To implement the Delta Plan 2100, there are as many as 78 projects undertaken by the Water Reserve sectors. More so, 33 projects by the Agriculture sectors 16 projects by the Forestry sector, 14 projects by the Fisheries sector, 6 projects by the Food Sector, 15 projects by the BIWTA, 13 projects by the Rural Development sectors, 68 projects by the Water supply and Land Development sector, five projects by the Power Development Board (PDB) will be implemented in the process of time. After the successful implementation of the BDP 2100, the GDP growth will be increased by 1.5% per annum (Report on the BDP 2100 by the Integrated Assessment for Bangladesh). The BDP 2100 is a mega plan which will ensure the integration of Water Resource Management holistically. This will bring back the dynamics in long-term planning. It took a lot of time and effort to accommodate all the stakeholders in a single platform. Various technical experts and policy makers of the Government have relentlessly worked on the Bangladesh Delta plan 2100. The progressive activities of this mega plan depend on skill development and capacity building in every stages of implementation activities. It requires to support the investment planning, financial aspects and maintaining the review processes. Bangladesh as a developed nation, will not have any dependency on other countries in near future. There will be a huge employment opportunity in our country. The foresightedness and dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will act as the prime mover for the upcoming success of the BDP 2100.
The writer is a member of the Corps of Engineers,
Qadirabad Cantonment, Natore