The government has taken an initiative to redesign the country’s existing coastal embankments keeping in mind the climate-induced changes presumed to take place by 2050 and thus protect the coastal lands from seawater.Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) on November 1, 2015 signed an agreement with a Chinese firm under the Coastal Embankment Improvement Project-1 (CEIP-I) to start work on the project, according to official sources.
“We’ve signed a Tk-700 crore deal with Chinese firm First Engineering Bureau of Henan Water Conservancy. As per the agreement, the firm will rebuild four polders in Khulna and Bagerhat districts,” CEIP-I project director M Sarafat Hossain Khan told UNB.
The height of 200 kilometres of embankments will be raised by one to two metres and 58 regulators will be set up under the deal in the first phase, he said adding that it is expected that the embankment redesigning work will begin in January next.
The government earlier took the Coastal Embankment Improvement Project Phase-1 (CEIP–1) involving US$ 400 million to rebuild 17 polders in Khulna, Satkhira, Begerhat, Pirojpur, Barguna and Patuakhali.
The project envisages increasing the resilience of coastal population to natural disasters and climate change, reducing the losses of assets, crops and livestock during natural disasters; reducing the time of recovery after natural disaster such as cyclone; and improving agricultural production by reducing saline water intrusion, which is expected to worsen due to climate change.
Sarafat Hossain said BWDB has already signed an agreement to start project work and it will sign two more contracts with foreign firms to rebuild the remaining polders to complete the project by June 2020.
Once implemented, he said, the project will help ensure the safety of lives and property in over one lakh hectares of coastal lands from cyclonic storm surges and salinity intrusion by rehabilitating and upgrading the embankments.
Drainage congestion of 86,382 hectares of area will be removed while cropping intensity will be increased from 133 percent to 211 percent. The agricultural production of the project area will increase, Sarafat said.
Bangladesh is one of the low-lying most countries vulnerable to climate change. The coastal zone in southern Bangladesh adjoining the Bay of Bengal is characterised by a vast network of morphologically active tidal rivers. The coastal zone, in its natural state, used to be subject to inundation by high tides, salinity intrusion, cyclonic storms and associated tidal surges.
According to the fifth assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sea level could rise from 26cm to 98cm by 2100, depending on global emission levels. If it does so as per IPCC prediction, Bangladesh will lose huge costal lands.
A research by local NGO Unnyan Onneshan in 2012 revealed that sea level will rise by one meter in the country’s coastal region by 2100, affecting 25,000 square kilometres of land (17.5 percent of total landmass) displacing 31.5 million people.
Official sources said BWDB set up 139 polders since the 1960s enabling about 1.2 million hectares of land to be brought under permanent agriculture within the coastal embankment system, which was originally designed to protect against tides and associated salinity intrusion, without much attention to storm surges.