Ministers Schultz and Ploumen sign water agreements with Bangladesh

Today, Ministers Lilianne Ploumen (Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation) and Melanie Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure and the Environment) signed an agreement with the Bangladesh government and the World Bank Group, focusing on the sustainable protection of Bangladesh against flooding, and ensuring a sufficient supply of clean drinking water and improving sanitation. In addition, the Netherlands and Bangladesh will join forces in the fields of land reclamation and port development. The Bangladesh flats, the largest delta in Asia and the most densely populated delta in the world, are facing major water issues.

Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100

The collaboration is to result in the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, a long-term vision comprising technical solutions, as well as an investment plan including private participation, and proper administrative embedding. While preserving the delta’s unique biodiversity and physical properties, the Delta Plan can thus contribute to Bangladesh’s aim of becoming a mid-income country by 2021.

Minister Schultz: “At first sight, the water challenges in the Netherlands and Bangladesh are similar: low-lying, densely populated delta countries, with major rivers flowing out into the sea, comprehensive migration into the cities, a strategic position vis-à-vis the hinterland. The scale and the complexity of the issues are, however, not comparable. Nonetheless, more intensive collaboration will benefit both countries.” Ms Ploumen adds: "A delta plan only works if everyone is involved. The Netherlands, being a polder country, already has considerable experience in this regard, but in Bangladesh overall involvement is not yet a matter of course. The very poorest, and women in particular, hardly have a say. This really calls for improvement.”

Prevention

Two-thirds of Bangladesh lies within the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta. The partnership between the Bangladesh government, the Netherlands, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private branch of the 2030 Water Resources Group, will facilitate the sharing of expertise and information between the participating governments and the World Bank. The agreement builds upon a collaborative agreement between Bangladesh and the Netherlands dating from 2012. Ms Schultz: “Key words are prevention and long-term planning. In the Netherlands, we command 800 years of experience. It is my personal mission to put Dutch knowledge and expertise into action worldwide in order to make countries more resilient. And conversely, we can learn a great deal from the circumstances in other countries.”

Its location, its immense poverty and population density render Bangladesh extremely vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, states Johannes Zutt, World Bank country manager for Bangladesh. “The Delta Plan 2100 takes up the challenge of constructing a resilient, sustainable delta that will be of benefit to millions of people. Their lives and livelihoods depend on these unique surroundings.” Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, the Bengal Finance Minister, endorses this: “A long-term vision, looking 50 to 100 years ahead, is important for the future of Bangladesh. The integrated approach should help protect, restore and improve our delta’s ecosystem, while bolstering socio-economic development.”

Vulnerable

Over the past decades, the Bangladesh government has invested more than 10 billion dollars to make the country less vulnerable to natural disasters. River dykes have been strengthened, emergency shelters have been constructed where people can shelter during cyclones, and warning systems have been set up. These efforts have significantly reduced the number of casualties, damage to the living environment and the material damage resulting from extreme weather conditions. “Collaboration is extremely important, because the immense water challenges call for the resources and commitment of many actors. This plan unites the government, international financial institutions, NGOs and the private sector in Bangladesh for the welfare of those who inhabit the delta”, says Anders Berntell, Executive Director of the 2030 Water Resources Group of the World Bank, who signed the agreement on behalf of the IFC.