|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
Despite steady progress, poverty remains the dominant problem in Bangladesh, with 50% of its population living under the income poverty line. Due to the geographical location of the country on vast flat floodplain at the confluence of the three main rivers, the livelihoods of the poor are fundamentally affected by water-related disasters, including floods, drought, riverbank erosion, cyclones, and tidal surges. Global climate change will further exacerbate these disasters. An increasing population amplifies the risk of disasters, and the high population density of Bangladesh restricts the scope for moving people away from disaster prone areas. The government has been progressively developing a sector policy and planning framework since the 1990s to address these water sector challenges. However, the operationalization and institutionalization of the policies and plans are still under way.
Riverbank erosion is one of the most prominent disasters in Bangladesh, caused by dynamic channel shifting of the rivers. An estimated 10,000 ha of floodplain land is lost annually. This process annually affects about 100,000 people including the poor, who face significant social hardships, such as loss of homestead, lands, and/or crops, and being displaced to fringe lands, river islands (chars), or urban slums. Erosion, thus, increases the landless poor population. Poverty incidence appears higher in riverine districts. Erosion damage extends to infrastructure, including river embankments for flood protection. The threat of disasters discourages investment, and lead to lower economic growth of riverine areas. Therefore, enhanced riverbank erosion and flood protection management is essential for the poverty reduction and economic growth of these areas.
The JMREMP has established a new more cost effective and flexible riverbank protection method which can effectively cope with the highly dynamic morphological changes of the main rivers in Bangladesh. The JMREMP also developed a systematic construction and quality control methodology of protection structures, a regular flood/ river survey monitoring system, erosion prediction modeling, and design guidelines for protection. The proposed investment will expand the achievements of the JMREMP to other river reaches, with necessary improvement: (i) exploring more effective integration of structural and non-structural measures, effective stakeholder participation, and ensured sustainability of constructed structures, (ii) addressing uncertainty due to climate change, and (iii) strengthening institutional capacity to address these issues. Further, the flood and erosion management in Bangladesh necessitates more strategic planning, in due consideration of the long-term morphological trend of the entire river reach, as opposed to the current ad hoc and piecemeal approach. This new reach-wise approach will be considered in the proposed investment, and could lead to the future long-term stabilization of the entire river course, which the government envisages in their sector road map, followed by more stable economic growth in the riverine districts.
Economic growth and poverty reduction are the main objectives of the government's Sixth Five Year Development Plan for 2011-2015. Sustainable management of rivers and enhancement of climate change resilience, including disaster risk management, are considered essential means to accomplish the growth and poverty reduction objectives. Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Country Partnership Strategy (CPS): Bangladesh (2011-2015) emphasizes supporting climate resilient economic growth and poverty reduction by encouraging sustainable management of natural disasters including reducing disaster risks. The proposed program is in line with the government and ADB strategies.