Welcome treaty with the Netherlands
Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding with the Netherlands recently. The news was headlined in this paper. Called the Bangladesh Delta plan 2100, it envisages the establishment of cooperation with the Dutch in all respects of water management from 50-100 years. One would only wish for the best for this plan and for it to continue because Bangladesh stands to be benefited immensely from it.
Information– indicating the future of Bangladesh most of the time — appear to be short of hope. It is generally made out that the future of the country is rather hopeless. Far too many people are already seen living in this tiny country in the physical sense. Thus, anxiety is expressed about the living space for this population which would become even greater in the future not to mention finding the means of sustenance for the growing number.
But Malthus and all other prophets of doom have been proved wrong in the context of Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s population nearly doubled in the last three decades. However, so did its food production. Agricultural production has been more than keeping pace with population growth.
Thus, Bangladesh has not become a failed state like Sudan or Somalia. It is still a land of hope for its hardworking and resilient people. If only its political leadership improved in their sincerity to truly lead the country in the desired path, then, as most Bangladesh watchers say, this country could achieve a much higher level of economic progress by now.
As for the other formidable worry – land shortage – there is good news waiting for this country. Although there has been a long standing projection about a part of Bangladesh’s coastal areas sinking into the sea in the near future from the greenhouse syndrome, regularly received satellite imageries and other tangible supporting evidences suggest that Bangladesh is rather about to receive the gift of a huge land mass from its adjoining sea.
The size of this land mass, eventually, could be as big as the present size of Bangladesh or even bigger. But it will depend considerably on what the Bangladeshis themselves do– like the people of the Netherland did –for lands to rise from the sea and for the same to be joined to the mainland.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is no doubt the most authoritative forum as regards worldwide climate change and its consequences. But only last year, IPCC had to eat its own words and confess that some of its projections were flawed such as the imminent disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers that could most dramatically raise sea levels in the South Asian region. Scientific data also indicate that nothing can be absolutely said, yet, about the extent of sea level rise or the height of its occurrences in different parts of the world.
Thus, it may eventually become quite possible for Bangladesh to gain in elevation or new lands in its coastal area in the likelihood of deposition of silt in its coastal areas being faster or greater than the anticipated sea level rise in this region.
Unfortunately, nothing has been noted so far in the country’s annual development plans (ADPs) to the effect that the government is paying attention to this issue. No allocations have been made over the years to build dams and other structures to put a pace on the process of accretion of coastal lands. Let us hope that the agreement signed with the Netherlands will reverse this trend.
Already, substantial territories have surfaced in the coastal areas of Bangladesh. Some of these places have completely surfaced and have human habitations on them while others remain submerged during tides to emerge with the ebbing of the tide. The latter types of accreted lands are likely to gain in elevation to be permanently joined to the mainland. Indeed, a part of present day Bangladesh including the districts of Faridpur, Barisal, Noakhali, Patuakhali, etc., were formed in this manner over time.
Lands have already emerged from the sea in the coastal areas and more lands from the sea will hopefully rise in the future. But the natural process is a long one. It can be hastened and the technology for it is not so prohibitive or complex either. For Bangladesh, it involves only quickening the process of accretion by establishing structures like cross dams to speed up the rate of deposition of silt in areas that have accreted or nearly accreted.
The country is likely to get a generous response from the international community in matters of fund availability and technical supports if it can show that it is really keen to accrete more lands and has put the endeavour under a systematic policy framework.
Netherlands is one country which has the most experience in getting lands out of the sea. It had a situation worse than Bangladesh in the sense that much of it was so low lying and below the sea level that even high tides and storms in the sea led to its severe flooding and continuing inundation. Today, the Dutch have not only solved these problems through sophisticated engineering works, they have permanently reclaimed vast stretches of lands from the sea and are keeping them dry for various uses within secure barriers or sea walls.
Bangladesh can certainly gain from engaging the Netherlands in doing similar work for it. If we can play the Netherland card well, then in the near future we can also expect to sustainably get huge lands from the sea. Not only in land reclamation, the Dutch help will prove to be invaluable in all fields of water management such as fighting flood, river training, etc.