Delta ateliers deliver first solutions for Bangladesh Delta Plan

Published: 22 September 2015

Dutch experts from organisations including Deltares have organised a delta atelier with local partners in the Barind region of Bangladesh. The aim is to identify possible solutions for the area in collaboration with stakeholders.

Barind’s problems typical for the rest of the country

The Barind region is in the north-west of Bangladesh. It is home to 5.4 million people. The problems in Barind are associated primarily with dryness and falling groundwater levels, sedimentation and drainage. They are typical of the dry areas of the country. In other words, the solutions identified for Barind can also be rolled out in the National Strategy for Drought and Freshwater Availability in the 2100 Delta Plan for Bangladesh. The Delta Plan will be a flexible approach that will allow Bangladesh to manage the impact of climate change in the years to come. The atelier in Barind followed on from a previous atelier in the Haor region in the north-east of the country, where flash floods are a major factor, and an atelier in Dhaka focusing on urban water issues. A total of approximately 10 delta ateliers will take place. At present, the delta ateliers are being organised in the coastal zone, the river area and the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Large amounts of water are lost and drainage problems are worsening

The catchments of the Karatoya, Mahananda and Atrai rivers, which are arms of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, are located in Barind. Rice-growing is the main activity in the high-lying areas and the flood plains of these rivers. During the monsoon, the water supplies in the river are adequate for the rice farmers. As a result of the increasing demand for rice, and the use of modern groundwater technologies (deep wells for irrigation), the groundwater reserves are being depleted and drinking water supplies are under pressure. The problems in the lower-lying areas are different. The creation of polders, limitations on fish migration, the dewatering of wetlands and problems with maintenance mean that sedimentation is an increasingly pressing problem, resulting in difficulties with drainage and the degradation of natural values and fishing.

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Solutions identified during the ateliers

Together with the Delta team, the local population discussed the problems and robust solutions for the area in detail. Solutions included growing crops that require less water, capturing rainwater during wet periods, replacing groundwater, restoring the link between the polders and the river system, and improvements in the maintenance of the polder and drainage channels. Policy solutions were also suggested that included improved monitoring arrangements, raising awareness, sound governance, enforcement and sustainable financing.

Interactive workshops with over 100 stakeholders

The delta atelier consisted of interactive workshops in Rasjhahi and Rangpur with over 100 stakeholders who put forward solutions. In addition to the interactive meetings, the atelier also included site visits so that the participants could improve their understanding of the problems and possible solutions. Furthermore, representatives of local government authorities, the Rajshahi University, NGOs, villagers and farmers were interviewed. The results were presented and the delta workshops were rounded off in Rangpur.

Consortium for Bangladesh Delta Plan

The Bangladesh Delta Plan Consortium consists of Twijnstra Gudde, Deltares, Witteveen + Bos, UNESCO-IHE, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Defacto, Euroconsult Mott MacDonald, Ecorys and, from Bangladesh, IWM and CEGIS. The General Economics Division (GED), the Bangladeshi government’s highest planning authority, and the Dutch embassy in Bangladesh appointed the consortium in 2014 to start on the development of a delta plan.