Prof Shamsul Alam
Bangladesh has maintained a sustained annual growth rate of about 6.0 per cent for more than a decade against the backdrop of natural disasters, volatile world food prices and the global recession during the period. The sustained economic growth contributed to faster reduction in poverty from 56.6 per cent in 1991-92 to 26.4 per cent in 2012. The incidence of poverty declined at an annual rate of 2.46 per cent in Bangladesh over the period. If the trend continues, the target of halving the population living under the poverty line would be achieved well before 2015. The growth has also been associated with improvement in social indicators such as education, health and nutrition, housing and sanitation.
Challenges ahead: Notwithstanding the socio-economic progresses, Bangladesh is facing fundamental challenges including maintaining macroeconomic stability, increasing energy supply to meet the growing demand, lifting the investment rate from years of stagnancy, improving competitiveness of the economy and achieving sustainable development. For the coming days, the challenge for Bangladesh is to ensure food security and improve safety and living conditions for over 152.25 million people, while moving towards the status of a middle-income country. The development of Bangladesh can slow down due to natural disasters resulting in heavy economic losses, reduced economic growth and little progress in poverty reduction.
Already under the natural circumstances, water management in Bangladesh is a major challenge where spatial and seasonal availability of surface and groundwater is highly responsible for the monsoon climate and the physiography of the country. During the monsoon enormous amounts of water need to be drained out towards the ocean while during the dry season often there is not enough fresh water available. About 80 per cent of the rainfall is concentrated in five rainy months during the monsoon.
The recent and future anthropogenic changes in the hydrological cycle due to the climate change and construction of dams and barrages in combination with an increasing demand for water will make future water management more challenging. In addition, pollution limits the use of water in many sectors and has a big impact on human health and the ecosystem.
Water availability also depends on upstream flow, as 93 per cent of the catchment areas are beyond the country’s boundary. The groundwater system is under a severe threat because of depletion of the water level and arsenic contamination (prevalent in 59 out of 64 districts), salinity in the shallow aquifers in coastal areas and the fall in the groundwater level due to unsustainable extraction.
Bangladesh, the largest 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 river systems-the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. The country is known for rivers and floodplains, which support life, livelihoods and economy of the whole country. The economic growth and development of Bangladesh have all been highly influenced by water-its regional and seasonal availability and the quality of surface and groundwater.
In the coming decades, Bangladesh will be confronted with increasing flood risks, challenges regarding water quality, droughts and salinity due to the climate change. Proper management of water resources is essential for future development of Bangladesh.
Vision, strategy and objectives: In response to the needs of sustainable development, the government of Bangladesh has undertaken policies and programmes in different sectors over the recent decades. Many policies have been framed for sectors such as water, agriculture, land-use, fishery, forestry, etc and many plans e.g. the first Perspective Plan (2010-2021), the Sixth Five Year Plan (2011-15) and the National Water Management Plan, have been prepared. However, managing water scarcity, particularly in dry months in a sustainable manner, is a key challenge for sustainable development of Bangladesh.
Key elements of a strategy in this case include restoration and harnessing of surface water, entering bilateral agreements for sharing water of trans-boundary rivers, drawing up a river and canal management plan, increasing the water use efficiency and reducing waste, proper ground water management and water pollution management.
To address the challenges the government of Bangladesh has decided to implement the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 with the support of the government of the Netherlands. The Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 will be a comprehensive strategic plan with a holistic and cross-sectoral approach and long-term vision (50 to 100 years) aimed at addressing management of integrated water, land and related resources, disaster management and the climate change-related issues-water safety, food production, land reclamation and ‘char’ development, environment and ecology-in order to attain the adequate level of safety and food security as well as sustained economic growth. This will be a dynamic and indicative planning to achieve the national development goals (as outlined in the Sixth Five-Year plan and the Perspective Plan).
Implementation of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 will guide and direct better-coordinated programme activities and priority-based development projects so that optimum resource utilisation can be ensured.
The vision of developing the Bangladesh Delta Plan is to achieve long-term sustainable socio-economic development and safety from disasters through adaptive water governance, based on long-term planning through analysis and scenario development as well as through integration of relevant policy sectors and creation of adequate institutional arrangements and capacity. The government will lead the process of developing the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, in which active integrated participation of stakeholders from government and non-government agencies as well as inputs from the private sector and from the civil society is crucial. Departments under different ministries of the government will have an overarching policy and strategies to which their mandate and contributions will relate. In addition, the private sector will join in relevant activities of the plan.
The Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 will be a guide on development of individual sector plans and implemented through development programmes of the different ministries and departments as well as non-government organisations. This Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 also will include a Delta Framework addressing the cooperation structures, operational modalities and (policy) ambitions to attain.
The specific objectives: The Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 has some specific obsjectives which are as follows -
- To develop a long-term vision of future governance relating to water, land and other natural resources and spatial planning for the Bangladesh delta by undertaking a long-term (50 to 100 years) analysis;
- To take into account the population growth with cross-sectoral development initiatives;
- To promote regional development in the future governance of water, land and related resources and spatial planning in the Bangladesh delta;
- To formulate a roadmap for policy development, decision-making process, and coordinated implementation of defined actions under the Delta Framework;
- To bring the institutional framework as well as the involved governmental organisations in the position to deal with framing of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 and its implementation;
- To develop a Delta Plan documentation centre/archive in the General Economics Division (GED) to keep the related documents for future references and to monitor result-based performances and exchange knowledge with the concerned stakeholders.
Main activities/inputs: Eighteen thematic areas have been identified for assessment and planning studies. The thematic areas are –
During the assessment studies on the thematic areas the value of parameters (e.g. climatic, hydrological, socio-economic parameters like potential sea level rise, temperature change, GDP, employment, food production, migration due to climate change etc) would be estimated or projected. The specific value of these parameters will guide the longer-term planning process of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 and defining the Delta vision.
Though a longer timeframe planning is inevitable, people are not familiar with such planning. But it needs people’s consensus and endorsement for such planning and its implementation. Therefore stakeholder consultation will be required as mentioned in the following task.
Consultation with the national to local level stakeholders (national, district, upazila and community level) should be carried out through workshops and seminars to have broader understanding of the structure of Bangladesh’s socio-economic and environmental settings and get feedback to enrich the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100.
The expected output: The expected output of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 preparation project will be:
a. An integrated analysis (50 to 100 years) of important development (thematic background studies) related to natural resources in the Bangladesh delta with a special focus on water and aquatic resources, river management, land use, spatial planning, agriculture, environment, biodiversity, disaster management, food security, socio-economic growth, spatial and ecological development etc.
b. An outline for an adaptive pathway in addressing the climate change issues and impacts, disaster management, future defence against climate change risks.
c. A roadmap for institutional and policy development, decision making and concerted efforts for integrated implementation of development programmes as part of the Delta Framework.
d. Coordinated and integrated institutional development and capacity building for formulation of new projects/activities in line with the Plan and the Framework.
e. Coordinated and integrated guidance for utilising development partners’ and IFIs’ assistance in more effective and result-oriented development of Bangladesh.
Conclusion: The Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 will be a holistic long-term plan encompassing all the sectoral policies and plans in Bangladesh. This dynamic and continuous planning process, when implemented, will guide and direct better-coordinated programme activities and demand/priority-based development projects. Thus optimum resource utilisation can be ensured. The Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 will enhance institutional capacity and aid policy reforms to speed up integrated and cross-sectoral planning and development.
Preparation of the Bangladesh Delta Plan Project’s Technical Project Proforma (TPP) is in the final stage and it is expected that a financial agreement on the project will be signed soon. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has already been signed between the government of Bangladesh and the government of the Netherlands on financial and technical assistance for the project. It is expected that the successful implementation of the project will result in an effective plan document for building a prosperous Bangladesh in future.
Prof. Shamsul Alam is Member, General Economics Division (GED), Planning Commission. He led preparation of the First Perspective Plan of Bangladesh (2010-2021), the Sixth Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) and the National Sustainable Development Strategy of Bangladesh (2010-2021).
Originally published in the Financial Express.Leave a reply →