Bangladesh has a clear need for a master plan to deal with climate change, flooding and drought, and secure better circumstances for the people. Bangladesh experiences flooding every year, as it is a flat country and carved up by three very large rivers, which bring huge volumes of water down from the Himalaya Mountains every year. The annual monsoon rains in Bangladesh are added to this discharge. In a year, the monsoon season starts early and lasts a long time, half of Bangladesh gets inundated.
A dyke was built around Dhaka in the 1990s, and the river water no longer flows into the City. However, Dhaka does still flood regularly, but due to poor drainage. Flooding disasters affect the poor in the countryside most. These farmers don’t have any food, as their land is flooded. And to make matters worse, they suffer from a failed harvest. Wage labourers are stuck in their villages without work, income and food.
Together with partners, a master plan ('Delta Plan') was developed. The master plan integrates the various policy sectors into a long-term vision. The main objective is to achieve a balanced combination of measures that improve both agriculture and water-management, but also to anticipate the expected climate change. Central to the master plan is land-use planning as part of adaptive water management, in which an integral view of both food- and water supplies are taken into account. The level of integration varies from region to region. For instance: parts of Bangladesh are very dry, and water-levels are sinking. In that area, retaining more water is desirable to adapt agriculture to the dry conditions, by replacing rice with crops that need less water and irrigating more with surface water. All the different measures lead to a particular kind of land-use, which in turn determines what kind of water management is requred, where dykes should be built, and how high they should be. High- and low dykes, with water meadows between them, could be useful in Bangladesh. The meadows can be used for farming, but not for housing.
Impact and future perspective
The Bangladeshi Government has signed an investment programme to launch the master plan, with support from the World Bank. The World Bank is already involved in the planning now.