Towards a Delta Plan for Bangladesh

Published on
May 31, 2012

Bangladesh is part of the largest delta in the world. The whole country is dominated by rivers.

And therefore threatened by sea level rise. One of our staff members, Catharien Terwisscha van Scheltinga, based in Bangladesh, is member of the preparatory team, working on a Delta Plan for Bangladesh. Such a Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 should contribute to make the country a safe and sustainable delta in the coming 50 to 100 years.

Bangladesh will create a Delta Committee along the lines of the Dutch example. In order to do so, both countries signed on 22 May an agreement for strategic collaboration in the area of water management and adaptation to climate change. "Our Delta Plan will have strong resemblance with the Netherlands’ Delta Plan,” stated A.K. Khandaker, Minister of Planning, on the occasion (see photo, source: The Daily Star), “as the characteristics of both our countries resemble. Sofar, we had various single-unit plans. With Dutch assistance we will now make one holistic and integrated plan encompassing different sectors involved, like agriculture, fisheries, industry, water management and sanitation. The overarching theme will be: water management related to climate change.”

Catharien Terwisscha van Scheltinga is leading the Wageningen UR Project Office in Dhaka,  Bangladesh, with its work on water management, climate change and food security. Besides, she works 2 days a week at the Netherlands Embassy. The Netherlands has a lot of knowledge and experience in the area of longer term and integrated planning, and that is exactly what Bangladesh is looking for. “However, you can’t export Dutch knowledge just like that to Bangladesh,” states Catharien. “A continuous process of translation is required, in which you study the complex and sometimes difficult situation in Bangladesh, identify chances and limitations and how this can be combined with the Dutch expertise. That’s mainly what I do. Fortunately, I am not alone in doing so, and specific knowledge is provided by colleagues like Pavel Kabat, Fulco Ludwig and Eddy Moors.”

Bangladesh is a dynamic and strongly developing country. Catharien: “We did not know 50 years ago that this country would look like this today, so it is also extremely difficult to think 50 to 100 years ahead. But if one wants to take climate change into account, and Bangladesh would wish to achieve water management and related infrastructure for the safety of the people and their living environment, then you must work with longer term planning. We are talking about measures that will require time and a lot of investments. And even though you may not know many things precisely, still you might wish to start even today. It requires balancing between uncertainty, policy decisions, practice and further research that is required. My motto for this is: ‘Business as usual is not an option. And therefore we do unusual business’. It is about creating flexibility in the usual way things work, and knowledge exchange throughout the process. My background in Wageningen provides me a lot of experience.”

More information: and Wageningen UR Bangladesh page. There is also a Linked In group: Bangladesh Delta Plan.