Delta Plan 2100
Meghna estuaries could be a bliss in the Bay of Bengal
Bangladesh is a deltaic country. The combined flow of the Jamuna, the Padma and the Meghna merged at Chandpur and form a spectacular river flow. After Chandpur, the Meghna is split into several channels- then down to the Bay of Bengal. Many islands: Hatia, Sandip and Nijhum Dwip are situated there. Reclaiming of new land is fusible, as coastline of Noakhali in the Meghna estuaries have natural land formation process.
The adverse effects of global warming in the Meghna estuaries are increased by cyclone, storm surge, sea level rise and more saline water intrusion. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina mentioned that "Bangladesh Delta Plan (BDP) 2100" is the plan moving Bangladesh forward for next 100 years. Delta Plan 2100' gives us guide lines how to manage tidal floods and how to reclaim new land from the sea.
The Meghna estuaries have wide water bodies, high discharge of river, strong tidal actions and frequent tropical cyclones. Through minimizing the land erosion, minimizing adverse forces of tide and through accelerating natural land reclamation process- the country could expand the coast borders. Almost 2.4 billion tons of sediment passes to the Bay of Bengal each year through the Meghna.
The char land formations are in welcoming situation. The connection channel between Sandwip and Noakhali mainland are gradually silted up and creating new char lands. 'The Sandwip-Urir Char-Noakhali multi-disciplinary Cross Dam' project will give rise to about 18,000 hector new lands. The cross dam would have only favourable effects on more sedimentation and will not block drainage of channel. The reclaimed land will be about 25,000 km2.
The Meghna river estuaries including coastline of Noakhali are best for reclamation of lands. The coastal land formation mega-project' could be taken including many Islands: Balu Char, Urir Char; Sonar Char, Swarna dweep, Char Fasson and other Islands at Bhola. Those entire areas could be utilized as 'paradise of the sea' and as an 'ideal of land reclamation.
Land reclamation is a process of restoring new land from the ocean in the face of erosion of char lands. Reclamation can be achieved by- bank protection and river training to save lands from erosion, polder by embankment/dike with drainage and irrigation net-work, accelerating natural land reclamation by cross dam and artificial land reclamation by filling up the sea side by dredged materials.
Land erosion is common natural phenomena. The present coastal embankments have less effective lives. River training and dike on coastal lines could be designed to provide high level of protection. Dikes/dam made with a core of sand- covered by a thick layer of clay provides more resistance against erosion.
Feasibility studies on water depth, erosion and a natural land formation processes are needed. Then, a mega project "coastal protection and land reclamation" could be implemented having several sub-projects: 1. protecting entire sea site from erosion 2. dredging and river training, 3. polders with irrigation net work and de-stalinization, 4. natural land reclamation, 5. sea side fresh water reservoirs, 6. mangrove forestation.7. navigation, culvert and drainage. 8. good physical environment in char areas.
Marine resource in Meghna estuary: Large marine resources of Bangladesh remain unexplored. In the Meghan estuaries - wind, wave, tidal range and currents offer a significant potential to 'renewable energy'. Researchers are developing new technologies that can extract energy from ocean currents and convert it into usable power. The 'blue economy' offers many prospects through utilization of marine resources.
The government could build export oriented coastal industrial zones in the Meghan estuaries. An export oriented environments could be built-up - emphasizing privatization in coastal belts. Therefore, social surveying and providing job opportunities are important.
We can shift many people in those prospective areas if flooding and erosion are controlled. Coastal economy is mainly based on agriculture, fishing and livestock. The Meghna estuaries are reaching in total Hilsa resource in respect with migration routes and breeding sites. Human statement with crops, fisheries, shrimp cultivation and live-stock development might be feasible.
What need to do: An environmental friendly coastal agricultural policy could be built up- emphasizing multipurpose use of char lands. BRRI could release a tall (180 cm height) and salt tolerant Aman rice for low-lying areas and a regional station of BRRI could be built-up in an Island for climate resilient high yielding rice variety development. A 'Coastal Agriculture Research Institute' could also be built-up for developing salt tolerant rabi crops, vegetables, wheat, maize, barley, groundnut, sunflower, soybeans and lentil etc.
In an Island- about 20% areas could be utilized for forestation, 20% low lying areas for fresh water reservoir, 30% areas for pastures, 10% areas for fish drying and only 20% areas for crop cultivation and housing. The major emphasis could be given on marine fisheries and fresh water fish farming. Vast fallow areas could be utilized as grazing ground of buffalo and ships. The freshwater reservoir will support for drinking water, irrigation and other uses.
Some Meghan estuaries are less developed, but have a good potential for development under 'The Delta Plan 2100'. In this context, 'The Meghna Estuaries Development Authority' under Bangladesh Water Development Board could be formed for implementing multi-purpose 'coastal land reclamation project'. The entire areas could be surrounding by cross dam. Through accelerating natural land reclamation process- the country could expand the coast borders.
Hatiya is an island at the mouth of the Meghna. Hatiya upazila could be used as like a separate district head quarter- it has been proposed to built up a separate administrative unit at Hatiya for developing all the Islands. All the Islands will be connected with Hatiya by sea boats, ships and navigation. 'The Delta Plan 2100' should give us a guide line- how to best use of lands in the Meghan estuaries.
Once coastal lands are protected- navigation, drainage, culvert and road construction, mangrove forestation and eco-tourism could be expended. A distinctive image including hotels and mortals will be developed at Hatia - those will be a focal point for tourism. A beautiful Island 'Swarna dweep' located near Hatiya, Noakhali- could be built up as 'Singapore of Bangladesh'.'Swarna dweep' can be used to build a domestic airport to promote the tourism industry.
Delta Plan 2100 has been proposed for "coastal protection and land reclamation project" in the Meghan estuaries and huge amount of fund will be required. For investment in this sector Bangladesh can maintain its economic relations with China in the concept of Chinese 'BRI'. With the help of dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh will be an emerging economic power of the 21st century through developing the Meghan estuaries.
The writer is a Chief Scientific Officer, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute