|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
Water fundamentally affects rural livelihoods in Bangladesh, with the country's major regional river systems bringing about massive annual floods, severe dry-season water scarcity, and periodic natural disasters. Its effective management is critical to address pervasive rural poverty problems. Yet the task is complicated due to fairly diverse and complex stakeholder interests and vulnerable natural ecosystems. It is thus paramount to plan, develop, and manage water resources in a strategic and integrated manner with mobilization and empowerment of diverse stakeholders. While the country has established a large number of FCD/I infrastructures, their performance remains suboptimal, due to lack of effective management systems that can meet diverse stakeholder needs in particular the vulnerable poor, and most critically, providing sufficient O&M. Within the country, Southwest areas face the most acute problems, due to the reduced dry-season inflow and associated social and environmental hardships including salinity intrusion, along with annual monsoon flooding.
In recent years, the Government has progressively improved policy, institutional, and planning framework for the water sector, with the coordinated support of external financiers including ADB. The National Water Policy (NWP) 1999 adopted key principles including integrated water resource management (IWRM) and sustainable service delivery and O&M with progressive transfer of facility management to WMAs. This is being followed by ongoing institutional reforms of sector agencies for better governance, and the recent adoption of the National Water Management Plan (NWMP) in 2004 that provides a sector strategy and priority programs with a long-term perspective. Key challenge now is to transform these initiatives into genuine sector operations.
Within this framework, enhancing and sustaining performance of existing FCD/I systems has been accorded high priority, given their need to strengthen flood resistance and their scope for generating high impacts with short lead time with relatively low costs. On this account, ADB has played lead roles in supporting the initiative for small-scale schemes, being implemented with increasingly better performance. The Project is needed to develop and institutionalize effective mechanisms to be applied to larger FCD/I schemes building on the good practice and lessons learned, to support the process of participatory and holistic planning, inclusive WMA development, infrastructure and support services to meet critical local development needs, and sustainable O&M. Successful implementation of the Project will demonstrate the way to fully operating key NWP principles in FCD/I systems, with further improved governance of the sector institutions.
ADB's country strategy and program (CSP) for Bangladesh was prepared in 2005 following the Government's Povety Reduction Strategy Paper. Given the high incidence of rural poverty, the CSP prioritizes investments in agriculture commercialization, rural infrastructure, and rural water management. The strategy for the water sector is to institutionalize integrated planning, development, and management with sustained O&M, while providing support for critical infrastructure where high growth and poverty impacts are expected. The programs build on good practices and lessons, and promote further improved institutional framework in harmony with development partners. All are consistent with ADB?s water policy.