A project of the General Economics Division of the Bangladesh Planning Commission funded by the Government of the Netherlands

  • Delta Vision and Adaptive Delta Management in Bangladesh

    Delta Vision and Adaptive Delta Management in Bangladesh

    Due to the great uncertainties with respect to climate change and socio-economic development, the linear planning approach used in the past is being enriched with adaptive policy planning and adaptive management in several delta areas. Rather than providing linear recipes, robust and flexible strategies and measures are needed, with strong institutions and knowledge base that allows policy makers and stakeholders to anticipate and decide on the most appropriate investments.

    Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 is an example of such an adaptive plan. At the basis of the plan are the Baseline Conditions and a Delta Vision. Any planner will work with a certain vision or perspective that motivates his or her actions, recommendations or plans. This is no less the case for planning under conditions of deep uncertainty, in which a planner should create a strategic vision of the future, commit to short-term actions and establish a framework to guide future actions.

    For Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 such a vision has a longer time horizon than usual in planning activities, to capture the long-term processes of climate change. The plan is developed in light of the many possible futures that lie ahead, and is designed to be changed over time as new information becomes available or policy priorities change. Instead of only focusing on short-term “trial-and-error” actions and projects, the idea is to keep the long-term vision in mind while simultaneously formulating short-term “no-regret” actions. This long-term Delta Vision or perspective can be defined as a more or less coherent set of vision elements (principles, values, aspirations) of an actor or coalition of a desirable future and the goals related to its realization. Such a development can e.g. be a climate-proof delta, a competing delta or a sustainable delta.

    The Delta Vision will be developed according to ideas of adaptive delta management: being flexible to adapt to what may happen over time. To do this, drivers behind developments or trends are important in relation to expected problems and key delta issues. Drivers are also relevant to the possible scenarios, a long-term perspective, interventions, tipping points and pathways. A set of selection criteria, based on this Delta Vision and adaptive approach will be developed and used to assess future interventions and to set certain (safety or quality) norms: the Assessment Framework. Such a set of criteria is also important for selection, prioritization and decision making on (no-regret) measures to be taken.

    Such a long-term perspective itself should be interpreted flexibly: indeed, in such a long time frame the values, needs and desires of society surely will be different from the present! But this is an intrinsic problem with planning: one can only use the present valuation system to evaluate planning actions which affect the future.

    Principles, values, aspirations and questions which guide the development of a Delta Vision are:

    • General principles of development found in the Bangladesh policies, such as promoting prosperity, economic growth and poverty alleviation;
    • What should be the role of the government? Should it maximize sustainable exploitation of natural resources at all cost or should it provide incentives for cost-efficient use, depending on local conditions? In other words: should water and other resources be made available everywhere, even in the most adverse environments through heavy investments in infrastructure or should resource use be adapted to local availability and (future) constraints?
    • Should (water) resource management be decentralized or centrally managed?
    • Should all people be provided with the same level of safety against natural hazards? What is the level of safety? Can it be expressed in a statistical norm?
    • Should there be solidarity in payments for water safety and water supply? In other words, should people living in less hazardous places also pay for those living in hazardous places?
    • Should high urban migration rates and rapid urbanization be accepted, leading to continuous growth of a few large megacities or should it be discouraged by investing in rural development and planning of a larger number of smaller cities?
    • Should economic development be focused on large scale industrialization, deep port development, ship building etc. fuelled by cheap labour and natural gas exploitation, or on developing a large agro-business sector? Or both?
    • Should increase flood safety be reached predominantly with structural measures (higher and stronger dikes), or with a mixture of structural and non-structural measures?
    • Is living with floods a strategy of the past?


    Developing a vision requires much interaction and discussion with stakeholders and experts. The reason is that a vision is not value-free: essentially it depends on a combination of facts, knowledge, wisdom, wish lists and interests. Stakeholders (and experts) have different interests and the challenge is to find synergies and mutually agreed development paths and to develop a platform in which these interests and viewpoints can be shared and channeled. In the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, the facts and knowledge are brought in the discussion through the thematic baseline studies and integrated assessments, which are based on the best available knowledge and a process of joint fact-finding.

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