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Published: 06.17.2015

Xinhua News Agency: Bangladesh, Netherlands, World Bank join hands to strengthen delta management

News Source: Xinhua

By Naim-Ul-Karim

DHAKA, June 17 (Xinhua) — “Annually about 30 percent of Bangladeshi territory is inundated by flooding. Extreme floods can even impact more than 60 percent of the country,” a senior Bangladeshi government official said Tuesday. In a brief presentation on “Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100”, Shamsul Alam, a member and senior secretary of the General Economics Division of Bangladesh Planning Commission, said Bangladesh, the largest delta in the world with low-lying flood plains, now faces innumerable challenges due to both man-made and natural disasters.

Among other challenges which often hamper Bangladesh, Alam also cited, flooding, river bank erosion, increasing salinity in the coastal areas, deteriorating quality of surface and ground water, unstable groundwater use, encroachment upon water bodies and reduction of fish habitats and uncertainty of river flows. He said climate change threats, including rising sea level and increased frequency and intensity of natural calamities, have brought further misery to the 160 million people of Bangladesh in South Asia. He tabled the challenges the country has long been facing in a signing ceremony here on Tuesday.

To strengthen management of the Bangladesh Delta, the Bangladeshi government has signed an agreement with the Netherlands and the World Bank including its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the 2030 Water Resources Group.
The partnership, aimed at developing and implementing the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (BDP), is a long term and holistic vision for the Bangladesh Delta.

It is also aimed realizing Bangladesh’s goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2021 while maintaining the unique biodiversity and physical characteristics of the delta. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Bangladesh’s finance minister, Lilianne Ploumen, the Netherlands’ minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lia Carol Sieghart, the World Bank’s program leader, and Anders Berntell, IFC/2030 Water Resources Group executive director, on behalf of their respective sides here on Tuesday.

Bangladeshi Finance Minister AMA Muhith said the partnership will facilitate sharing of knowledge and information among the relevant officials to better implement the plan. He, however, expressed the hope that the plan will boost Bangladesh’s efforts to better combat challenges including climate change impact issues, to achieve the overall policy goal of the country becoming a middle income nation by 2021 and a developed country by 2041.

The partnership agreement builds upon a prior agreement signed in 2012 between Bangladesh and the Netherlands, which is providing both financial and technical assistance for the preparation of BDP 2100. As per the current work plan, Shamsul Alam said it is to be completed in September 2016. He said BDP 2100, which is to cover the whole of Bangladesh will help in realizing a sustainable and commonly agreed upon strategy with all relevant stakeholders for an optimum level of water safety and food security as well as sustained economic growth of Bangladesh and a framework for its implementation.

In a paper distributed during the ceremony, the Washington- based lender said two-thirds of Bangladesh lies in the Ganges- Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta and calls for special focus to sustainable delta management. Beset by an already high and growing population density along with growing urbanization, proper planning and management of the delta will secure Bangladesh’s future development over the future decades, through improving water safety, food security, and disaster resilience.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Lia Carol Sieghart, program leader of the World Bank, said the plan aims to create a long-term vision for delta management, prepare for different scenarios and responses, identify and organize government institutions to address challenges and create and facilitate a long-term investment program bolstered by private sector participation and development partners.
“Adaptive delta management will built a stronger foundation for prosperous Bangladesh,” said Sieghart.

Lilianne Ploumen, Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, said, “The Bangladesh Delta Plan can only be a success if it benefits all people in Bangladeshi society.”She urged that in connection “to the future process, proper attention should be given to the interests, views and roles of the poor, the landless people and within those groups, particularly to women.” Over the past few decades, the Bangladesh government has invested more than 10 billion U.S. dollars to make the country less vulnerable to natural disasters, said the WB paper.

Measures such as strengthening river embankments, building emergency cyclone shelters, and developing world class community based early warning systems, have significantly reduced the loss of life and livelihoods and property damage caused by extreme weather conditions, it said.
“Like all delta countries, Bangladesh and the Netherlands share a common cause to manage these complex environments. They are, therefore, natural partners in the exchange of knowledge and know- how,” said Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, while also stressing the importance of a preventive approach to reduce the risk of disasters.

“The partnership and the plan are so vital because meeting the immense water challenges requires resources and commitment from many participants. This plan will unite government, international financial institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector in Bangladesh for the benefit of the inhabitants of the delta,” said Anders Berntell, 2030 Water Resources Group Executive Director.