The Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, a joint venture between the Netherlands, Bangladesh and the World Bank, was announced yesterday.
The plan will focus on developing sustainable flood protection in Bangladesh. It also aims to ensure a sufficient supply of clean drinking water and improve sanitation. In addition, the Netherlands and Bangladesh will join forces in the fields of land reclamation and port development.
Announcing the plans, the Dutch government statement said that the Bangladesh flats, the largest delta in Asia and the most densely populated delta in the world, “are facing major water issues” such as flooding, poor sanitation and poor quality drinking water.
Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 is a long-term vision offering technical solutions to these issues, as well as an investment plan that includes private participation, and “proper administrative embedding”.
While preserving the delta’s unique biodiversity and physical properties, it is hoped that the Delta Plan can contribute to Bangladesh’s aim of becoming a mid-income country by 2021.
Collaboration, Prevention and Long-Term Planning
Bangladesh is one of the most flood-prone countries on earth. Two-thirds of Bangladesh lies within the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta.
Over the past decades, the Bangladesh government has invested more than 10 billion dollars to make the country less vulnerable to natural disasters. River dykes have been strengthened, emergency shelters have been constructed where people can shelter during cyclones, and warning systems have been set up. These efforts have significantly reduced the number of casualties, damage to the living environment and the material damage resulting from extreme weather conditions.
The Netherlands has been working with Bangladesh on flood prevention measures for over 50 years, according to the Dutch Water Sector.
“Cooperation between Bangladesh and the Netherlands in the water sector goes back half a century. We have worked together on flood management, drainage, river basin management and coastal zone management – creating safe polders and making land available for the landless. And together with NGOs and the private sector we have improved access to safe water and sanitation for millions of people in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has an impressive track record for growth and development, and aspires to be a middle-income country within the next ten years”.
A formal collaborative agreement was established between the 2 countries in 2012. The Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 hopes to take collaboration and flood prevention still further.
“Collaboration is extremely important, because the immense water challenges call for the resources and commitment of many actors. This plan unites the government, international financial institutions, NGOs and the private sector in Bangladesh for the welfare of those who inhabit the delta”, says Anders Berntell, Executive Director of the 2030 Water Resources Group of the World Bank, who signed the agreement on behalf of the IFC.
Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Dutch Minister for Infrastructure and the Environment, said:
“At first sight, the water challenges in the Netherlands and Bangladesh are similar: low-lying, densely populated delta countries, with major rivers flowing out into the sea, comprehensive migration into the cities, a strategic position vis-à-vis the hinterland. The scale and the complexity of the issues are, however, not comparable. Nonetheless, more intensive collaboration will benefit both countries.”
Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation added: “A delta plan only works if everyone is involved. The Netherlands, being a polder country, already has considerable experience in this regard, but in Bangladesh overall involvement is not yet a matter of course. The very poorest, and women in particular, hardly have a say. This really calls for improvement.”
Melanie Schultz added that the “key words are prevention and long-term planning. In the Netherlands, we command 800 years of experience. It is my personal mission to put Dutch knowledge and expertise into action worldwide in order to make countries more resilient. And conversely, we can learn a great deal from the circumstances in other countries.”
Resilient Sustainable Delta
Its location, its immense poverty and population density render Bangladesh extremely vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, states Johannes Zutt, World Bank country manager for Bangladesh.
“The Delta Plan 2100 takes up the challenge of constructing a resilient, sustainable delta that will be of benefit to millions of people. Their lives and livelihoods depend on these unique surroundings.”
Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, the Bengal Finance Minister, endorses this: “A long-term vision, looking 50 to 100 years ahead, is important for the future of Bangladesh. The integrated approach should help protect, restore and improve our delta’s ecosystem, while bolstering socio-economic development.”
More Floods Hit Bangladesh – 10,000 in Need of Assistance
As a timely reminder of the need for increased flood protection in Bangladesh, there are currently nine districts of the country experiencing flooding as a result of heavy rain over the last 2 days both in Bangladesh and in catchment areas in India. In the last 24 hours, 86.6 mm of rain fell in Rangpur, according to WMO figures.
ECHO say that “At present, an estimated 10 000 households are in need of assistance in Bangladesh. People living on embankments face shortages of safe drinking water and food. Displaced affected families are also in need of temporary shelter support. Some assistance is being provided by local governments”.
The severe weather has also affected the neighbouring Indian state of Meghalaya, where local news reports say that at least 13 people to have died due to landslides and lightning.