Experts from a wide range of disciplines gathered at a special conference in Dhaka on Friday demanding review of the Delta Plan 2100 for its potential harmful consequences on environment, ecosystem and livelihood.
They also called the plan contradictory to national development policy and said that in the long run it would become a matter of utter regret if the plan was implemented in its current form.
‘We find the government’s initiative to have a delta plan praiseworthy and timely,’ said S Nazrul Islam, vice-president of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan, while presenting the keynote paper at the conference’s inauguration.
‘But at the same time we suggest that the government takes its time and makes the plan full-proof,’ said Nazrul.
He said that the plan conflicts with national development policies on numerous grounds and would likely to become a burden for the country if changes were not brought to it before implementation.
‘We have the time. There is no hurry since a mistake in the plan may bring disastrous consequences,’ said Nazrul.
The shortcomings in the plan were largely originated in the planners’ effort to find solutions to local problems in foreign experts’ knowledge rather than finding it for themselves, he said.
For an instance, Nazrul said, the plan relies too much on Dutch experience in the management of delta.
He said that the tendency to follow Dutch experience was old in Bangladesh as over the years the country tried to solve flood problems by interrupting river flows with enclosures and dikes.
‘The water-logging problem is the glaring example of what happens chasing a wrong solution,’ said Nazrul.
He said that it only exposes lack of understanding of the problem trying to block great rivers like Brahmaputra, Jamuna and Ganges to end flood.
‘It not only renders lowlands outside the protection of the dikes or enclosure more vulnerable to flooding but also creates the possibility of catastrophic floods inside the protection,’ he said.
Rivers in Bangladesh is greater in any sense of the power of rivers compared to the ones flowing through the Netherlands, he said.
The delta plan proposes to continue building dams, dikes, enclosures in rivers and highways across the vast wetlands in the north-eastern Haor region.
Khalequzzaman, a professor of geology and physics at the Lock Haven University in the US, said that the plan was filled with rhetoric and good promises contradicting each other.
The plan promises to secure biodiversity in the Haor region and also boasts about project for building highways there.
‘It would require filling up the wetland for building highway and that would seriously affect the ecological balance there,’ he said.
Khaleq also referred to the government reports about the necessity of depolderisation to put light on more contradictions in the plan proposing more polders.
Senior secretary Shamsul Alam, the brain behind the plan, reiterated that the plan would not harm environment at all.
‘We have thought about it scientifically. There is nothing wrong in training rivers with dikes and enclosures,’ he added.
He further said that the delta plan was to help the country face climate change impacts.
As many as 90 scientific papers are expected to be presented in two days of the conference ending on Saturday.
Bapa and Bangladesh Environment Network are jointly organising the conference at Krishibid Institution.
Bapa president Abdullah Abu Sayeed presided over the inaugural session.