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Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100: Highlighting five key elements — I

Quamrul Ahsan | Published: July 28, 2019 20:53:16


The Government of Bangladesh has recently approved a plan that calls for a secure, safe, resilient and prosperous Bangladesh. An adaptive delta management (ADM) practice is said to be the cornerstone of this comprehensive plan called Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (BDP 2100).The BDP 2100, as it sounds, is a long-term strategy, up to the end of 21st century, which combines adaptive management practices to adapt with the uncertainties in the climate changes and challenges due to endogenous, exogenous and anthropogenic interventions. Its primary goals are to achieve long-term food and water security while ensuring environmental sustainability along with economic growth. The plan is a robust, adaptive and integrated strategy using a holistic approach and equitable water governance.

Adaptive nature of the approach, in implementing the Delta plan, has been proposed because of the uncertainties in the forcing functions that will have indelible impact on the Delta. Therefore, the role of knowledge, research and innovation would be the key to Adaptive Delta Management practices. Without an adequate knowledge base and constant innovation and research it wouldn't be possible to formulate proper and adaptive short-term strategies and policy options for the Delta. Therefore, a comprehensive educational plan to prepare the people is needed for this strategic plan, which will have direct impact on the livelihood of the people and their future generations. Therefore, they need to be better educated and prepared for this sweeping water, economic and environmental management plan that will shape up their lives.

A recent article by Dr. Shamsul Alam in the Financial Express gave a detailed account of the Delta plan. Alam described the plan to be implemented using a holistic and integrated approach. It ties the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) with the economic growth and development. With this approach, he has outlined a series of goals included in the Delta Plan 2100 which are consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are-- water and food security, climate change and environmental sustainability, people's livelihood, economic growth, social development, knowledge development, biodiversity, forestry and agriculture production. The goals also include development of effective institutions and equitable governance within the boundary and trans-boundary water resources management.

In order to achieve the goals, the BDP 2100 has identified six hotspots based on hydrological characteristics, namely, Barind and Draught Prone Areas, The Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Coastal Zones, the Haor and Flash Flood Areas, the River Systems and Estuaries, and the Urban Areas. However, the BDP 2100 has failed to recognise a few key elements that have profound impact not only on the hydro-morphology, ecology, environment and economics but also the livelihood of the people. These are: a) Knowledge Development Plan, a comprehensive educational plan for the people of all walks of life, b) Bay of Bengal and the Blue Economy, harnessing the potentials of the most precious water body nature has endowed us with, c) Trans-boundary Watersheds, to gain better understanding of the watersheds that is not within our political jurisdiction but has indelible impact on the Delta, d) Water Quality, to ensure physical, chemical and biological integrity of surface waters in the Delta, and e) Delta Science Foundation, to promote research and innovation to face challenges of the Delta and retain talents.

KNOWLEDGE DEVELOPMENT PLAN: The Bangladesh BDP 2100 is a long-term, inter-sectoral, water-centric and techno-economic plan. Therefore, Bangladesh must position itself to constantly develop capacity for understanding of sciences, research and training to cope with the ever-changing challenges that the planners and decision makers will face for generations to come. It is important that the BDP 2100 provides a comprehensive educational plan ranging from elementary school to graduate level programmes so that the entire generation can be well prepared for this extraordinary plan that will shape up their lives and future.

The programme starts from the elementary school curriculum, as we have seen in most economically and socially advanced countries in Europe and the USA. Social awareness for young children help them understand and function in the world in which they live. The curriculum starts with actionable and outcome-based educational programme. In this programme, the students get the first taste of laboratory experiment with a seed and a pot of soil. The experiment shows them how the seed germinates. They pour water every day on the pot and nurture it and watch how it begins to sprout and grow. It gives them a strong sense of being a part of the world they live in. It helps them become more creative and innovative.

Similar actionable and outcome-based programmes can be introduced in secondary and higher secondary school curriculum. These programmes will be related to water and its intelligent use for economic growth and environmental protection. Once they graduated from high schools they should be ready for undergraduate and graduate level education and research.

The BDP 2100 may also provide a strong scientific and knowledge base for the people to face the challenges of the future. Therefore, it is important that a world-class institute, call Bangladesh Delta Institute (BDI), be established that will be a centre of excellence for water-centric academics, research and innovation. It will create water, environmental and economics professionals who will lead the nation and the world. The institute should design and develop its research and academic programmes in order to create technical expertise, researchers, scientists, thinkers and policy makers to support Adaptive Delta Management (ADM) practices to face challenges of uncertainties in climate change in the decades to come.

Under these programmes there may be an actionable education and outcome based learning and research curriculum. The course work may be designed to broaden knowledge, enhance research skills, and the students/practitioners should be able to demonstrate intellectual ability to engage in scientific discussion, reasoning and construct practical outcomes. These courses are, but not limited to: a) Estuarine and Coastal Science Programme, b) Haor, Wetland and Lakes Programme, c) atmospheric and Climate Science Programme, d) Observational Field Programme, e) River Hydraulics and Morphology Programme, f) Environmental and Ecological Programme, g) Ground Water Programme, g) Agriculture and Water Use Programme, h) Trans-Boundary Watershed Programme, i) Delta Socio-Economic Programme, j) Planning, Design and Implementation Programme, k) Social and Professional Communication Programme, and l) Mathematical and Data Science Programme.

The students and trainees will earn graduate degrees, such as MSc, Ph.D. and Post-Doctoral research. These degrees will be conferred to successful students under Joint Academic and Research Programmes (JARP) between BDI and other public an private universities, such as BUET, Dhaka University, Chattogram University, Agricultural University and a host of other private and public technical and liberal arts universities. This way collaborative efforts will be established among all the institutions in the country.

Extensive television and social media educational programme needs to be introduced to educate people on various programmes taken under Delta Plan 2100 and their impacts on their livelihood. These programmes should be designed to make the people aware of their social responsibilities to take care of nature and prevent water pollution and wastage.

BAY OF BENGAL AND THE BLUE ECONOMY: It is important that the BDP 2100 supports research, disseminate information, and develop programmes with other relevant government agencies to quantify the economic value of the resources of the Bay of Bengal. A comprehensive plan for investment in educational and research institutions, environmental restoration and water-related infrastructure can be made. In addition, the plan should quantify the return on investment and the ecosystem benefits and services generated by the Bay of Bengal. These efforts should be aimed at exploring the "Blue Economy" and ensure that businesses, communities and agriculture are able to leverage the Delta's abundant water resources (both fresh water and sea water) to support strong economies and a high quality of life for the people.

The Bay of Bengal has fuelled the development and economic growths in the region for centuries. It provided a maritime transportation system that facilitated efficient movement of goods and commodities, supporting cluster of industries such as manufacturing, shipbuilding, agribusiness, commercial fishing and energy exploration. The BDP 2100 may include a plan to establish a centre for research and development of technologies to utilise and manage Bay of Bengal water resources.  The centre should set students and professionals on the path to understanding their role in the Blue Economy.

While Bangladesh is blessed with the bounty of natural resources like the Bay of Bengal, it is also highly vulnerable to natural hazards. It has a long history of resilience and capacity of coping with major natural disasters. The government and the people have a wealth of experience in preparing for, and responding to, disaster events.

However, what Bangladesh is significantly lacking in is the capacity to develop a storm forecast modeling and observing system. This has kept Bangladesh in total dependence on foreign expertise. Being a world leader in developing comprehensive planning and implementing operational disaster management, Bangladesh needs to focus on capacity building on tidal (astronomical, meteorological and tsunami) forecast modeling and research. Institutional researchers and experts should be able to participate in national efforts to translate hard science of natural events and climate change prediction into tangible, community-level actions to support adaptation to increasing hydro-meteorological hazards and disaster risk reduction.

A multi-agency programme with relevant government agencies can produce a sustainable and comprehensive tidal and storm surge forecasting modeling and observing system for the estuarine and coastal waters including the Bay of Bengal. The system will function both as an operational and research tool to be used not only to support adaptation to natural hazards and disaster risk reduction, but also to foster a sustained economic growth with managed environmental, infrastructural and economic resources of the coastal areas and the Bay of Bengal.

The programme should be organised around five functional components: a) knowledge-based resources and expertise development, b) development of modeling capabilities, c) data distributions (modeling results and research outcome), d) remote sensing and observing systems (field programmes), and e) outreach and disaster management (help develop and participate in disaster management activities during natural disasters), including assessment of infrastructural vulnerability and mitigation.

A key to the programme is communicating the results of the forecasting model to the officials and decision makers involved in disaster and risk management. The system will also share scientific results and resources with other governmental agencies such as the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Ministry of Water Resources (BWDB), Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Ministry of Environment and Forest, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Meteorological Department.

The vision is to develop a Flood Alert System (FAS). The FAS will be the portal to disseminate the flood and surge information. It is envisioned that an automated text messaging system will send alerts to appropriate authorities when predetermined locations in coastal regions are likely to exceed a flood depth threshold. The text message alert will direct the receiver to visual GIS flood depth layers supported by actual elevation data specific to each coastal zone. The GIS layers of the forecast will be available 72 hours, 48 hours, 36 hours, 24 hours, 12 hours, and 6 hours prior to surge impact. The forecasts will also continue to be displayed on the government websites and large LED display screens hosted in Prime Ministers Office, relevant Ministries and governmental agencies directly involved in natural disaster and risk management.

This system can also be used as a modeling and research tool to investigate the social and economical impact of global warming in the coastal regions. The modeling tool would be useful to address and mitigate various coastal issues, such as, increasing drainage capacity and reducing floods, water logging, salinity intrusions, riverbank and coastal erosions. Scientists and engineers in academic and governmental and non-governmental sectors will have a scientific edge to address short-term and long-term hydro-meteorological, climatological, social, economical and geopolitical challenges. The scientific and technical capabilities will allow Bangladesh to effectively formulate its maritime strategy and gain upper hand in projecting its interest in the highly contested and strategically important Bay of Bengal. (To be continued tomorrow)

Dr Quamrul Ahsan, PE, is National Water Resources Management Specialist, BWDB, former Senior Project Manager, HydroQual, Inc, NJ, USA and former Assistant Professor, IWFM, BUET

quamrul@icloud.com

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