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Blue Gold Program : A way forward for coastal Polder Water Management

21 October 2019
Blue Gold Program : A way forward for coastal Polder Water Management

Engr. Md. Amirul Hossain

The coastal zone of Bangladesh borders the Bay of Bengal with length of about 710km and is- the delta of the three largest rivers of the world - the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. This is considered as the largest and the most active Delta in the World. The coastal area consists of 19 districts, 48 Upzillas/Thanas (city areas) covering area of 28% of the country with population of about one third of the Nation. The coastal zone sub divided into two areas, the exposed portion to the sea or Bay of Bengal is the (i) Exterior coastal zone and behind the exposed zone but with elements or properties of coastal area like daily tidal variation, salinity etc. is the (ii) Interior coastal zone. The area is rich in natural resources as well as being subject to natural disasters such as tidal and storm surge associated flooding, salinity intrusion, sea and river bank erosion, heavy to very heavy silt deposing lead to dying rivers etc. The combined flow from the Padma, Meghna and Jamuna, the world's 2nd largest discharges go through Bangladesh and through this Delta or coastal zone. The huge amount of water and silt has been shaping the land scape, the lives and livelihood of the community of the coastal area of Bangladesh.
This part of the then Pakistan hit by devastating flood of 1954 lead to major crop damages and food crisis. During fifties and sixties, wet season paddy the Amon, contributed about 95% of the annual rice production. The flood, or the monsoon flood, damaged the Amon and country faced famine-like situation. To find a solution of this disaster, a Technical Mission set up by United Nations in 1954, known as the Krug Mission, flood control or water management strategy and plan was formulated. Based on the recommendation of the Krug Mission, East Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (EPWAPDA) was established (Ordinance no. 01 of 1959). After the Independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) was created by an Ordinance (P.O. No.59 of 1972).
The Krug Mission recommend for Coastal Polders to save the Amon paddy from flood, tide and salinity. Thus construction of Polder system began in the later part of Sixties of the last century with the objective of boosting paddy production by flood/tide protection and drainage improvement. Polder is an independent hydrological unit where desired water level is maintained. Polder components are Embankment, Channel/Khals along with ancillary water control structures like Regulator or sluice, Outlet/Inlet etc. Most of the Polders were implemented during 1960-70 period. After great Cyclone Gorky in 1970 shattered the south, south-eastern part of the country, live loss of 5 million people (official, unofficially 10 million), protection or defense of storm surge added in the coastal water management system to improve the Disaster Management. More heavy, wider, higher and stronger coastal embankment, named as sea dike, construction along the Chittagong, Noakhali, Bhola, Barguna coast was completed by 1974.Till to date those sea dikes are protecting the coastal population and property from cyclonic storm surge, in places locally known as MujibBadh.
Development of coastal water management
At the beginning, during Sixties and Eighties, engineering solutions through the structural interventions were the main considerations. Till end of 2018, about 139 Polders (Annual Report BWDB-2019) have been implemented under the BWDB, MOWR consisting 4765 km embankment and more than 1400 sluices/regulators/water control structures covering an area of 1.22 million ha. Country's food security largely depends on the Water Resources Management (WRM) of the completed polders. The Govt's vision is to make the country as developed by 2041, and the Delta Plan-2100 has been approved. To achieve the target, continuing agricultural yield improvements by expansion and intensification of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in the Polder area is needed. The coastal delta has large potentials for significant improvement of agricultural production and rural employment, as the cropping intensity and production in the Coastal Zone in less than the national average.
Problems and challenges
Water Resources Management (WRM) in the completed Polders and other projects has not been up to the level of expectation for many reasons, some of which are natural and some are human-induced. Various studies expressed reservations about the achievements and performance of the completed projects. Sustainable WRM in the completed projects is a major challenge and has been tried in the last two decades; it has also been emphasized in government policies (National Water Polices-NWPo 1999 &Coastal Zone Policy-CZPo-2005), guidelines (Guidelines for Participatory Water Management- GPWM-2000), plan (National Water Management Plan-WMP-2004), Sustainable Development Goal SDG-2015-2030, Acts (Bangladesh Water Development Board, BWDB Act-2000, Participatory Water Management Rule-2014, Water Act-2013) and ultimately the Delta Plan-2100, the visionary plan for overall development of the water sector of Bangladesh.
Water management based agriculture is the key element of economic activity in polder area. Water is very much essential for livelihood as well as reasons for natural calamity also. Polders were constructed in coastal zones during Sixties to protect from regular high tide and saline water intrusion with adequate drainage facility, which ensure
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grow and harvest of Amon Paddy and livelihood friendly environment. Effectiveness of water management infrastructures deteriorated and water-flow through canals interrupted due to increase of population, cultivation of high yielding variety crops, lack of regular maintenance, silt deposition, river bank erosion, land grabbing or encroachment of water-ways during few decades. Coastal zone also vulnerable to cyclonic storm surge like Sidr-2005, Aila-2007, Rowanu-2012 etc badly affected or damaged water infrastructures and Polders with the properties, crops, lives and lively hoods. Climate Change and Sea Level Rise is additional adversity added in the Polder system. Conflict of interest of water users inside the polders also identified as major constraints. Notable conflict of water users are, Paddy vs Fish farmers, low land vs high land farmers, tail end vs head of the channel farmers etc. Lack of interested and motivated community for small repair or maintenance is constraints for sustainability of water management structures. Due to these reasons water logging and availability of fresh water has been experienced in few Polder areas. The Polders of South West area, in the Khulna, Satkhira and Jashor area have been facing more problems than the other part of the Bangladesh Coast.
Generally it is observed that, the smaller Polders and projects have been more successful and well managed than the larger ones because they can be implemented quickly, have least impact on floodplain and WM is less complex (BWDB 1998 &Datta 1999).
Step by step development
During Sixties and Seventies coastal Polders was implemented targeting Amon Paddy saving, so strategy was to Tide and Flood Protection with Drainage. Regulator or Sluices was constructed with River Side water level Control, the Flap Gate-operated with tidal fluctuations. Hardly need Manual Operation, gates opened while inside water level is higher than the out-side water level with inside water pressure - during low tide. During high tide while out-side water level is higher, gates are closed. In the Coastal Zone, daily twice High Tide and Low Tide are regular phenomenon.
To cope with population boom in this part, grow more food and the green revolution have been emphasizing in the country during Eighties. There are success of new/high yielding variety, new crops and improved production. Dry season crops, paddy, vegetables, fruits etc. were introduced. These contributed to food security and food self-sufficiency. All these dry season crops need irrigation, along with increased population over the decades, water demand in the Polders added with new strategy, irrigation requirement with fresh water or saline free water. Since Eighties, Regulators or Sluices have been added Water Retention Facility with Vertical Lift Gate, in the Country Side water level Control. The same structure has been added with Drainage facility during Monsoon (or when needed) and flushing in water from river or water intake. The water management system has been moved from a simple operation, only drainage through Flap Gate with no manual Operator to a bit complex operation needs manual operation of Vertical Lift Gate. The system has been shifted from mono objective Drainage(one way flow of water, Polder to river), to multiple objectives of Drainage and Irrigation (both way flow).
Blue gold program - way forward
Blue Gold Program (BGP) jointly supported by the Government of the Netherlands and Government of Bangladesh with objectives of increasing agricultural production and community empowerment at local level in Southern and South-Western region of Bangladesh. The goal of the program is to reduce poverty in the selected coastal polders through integrated water resources management and increase agricultural productivity of crops (paddy, pulses, vegetable other crops), fishery and livestock. The project duration is from 2013 to 2020. The project area is around 119,124 ha (about 10% of the total Polder area) and covers 22 polders of 14 upazilas of Barguna, Patuakhali, Khulna and Satkhira districts. Physical implementation began in 2014.
The BGP is an integrated approach of structural and non-structural activities for better water management in polder area. The structural part includes repair, renovation and re-construction of water management infrastructures(Sluice/regulator etc), Re-excavation of Khals, re-sectioning/repair of embankments etc. Non-structural part includes formation of Water Management Groups (WMGs), Water Management Associations (WMAs) so that WMGs and WMAs can take the responsibility of small scale repair and maintenance, operation of regulator as per water requirement for agriculture, fishery, livestock sectors and domestic usages. Water requirement means drainage, remove extra water from Polder, irrigation-taking usable water inside the Polder and retain or preserve rain water in the channels/Khals. Thus integrated water management has been initiated in the Polders under BGP in combination of structural measures and non-structural measures. Using the advantage of high tide and low tide twice a day, water logging has been removed and availability of water for irrigation and other purpose ensured. Crops, vegetables, fish and livestock production and job opportunity have been increased round the year through these initiatives.
The sponsoring Ministry of BGPis the Ministry of Water Resources(MoWR). The project is being implemented by Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) as lead agency and other agencies and sectors are (a) Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) (b) Department of Fisheries (DoF) (c) Department of Livestock Services(DLS) (d) NGO and Research Institutes (Home and abroad).The main objective of the program is to reduce poverty in coastal area by enhancing the livelihood of the rural population through more efficient water resources management and increase productivity of mainly crops, fishery and livestock in the polders and by empowering the communities to be the driving force. This program ensures participation of local people in re-excavation of Khals, re-sectioning of embankments and repair, renovation and re-construction of water management infrastructures and also in planning, operation and maintenance of those water control structures.                                                                                                                                              Contd on page  49
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Main Structural and Non-Structural Activities under BGP are as follows :
a) Structural: Main Structural Activities (upto June, 2019)

Sl.No.        Items of work                        Progress

1        Construction/Re-construction of Drainage Regulator        9 nos. full, 17 nos. part
2        Construction of Drainage outlet                6 nos. full, 5 nos. part
3        Construction of irrigation inlet                5 nos.
4        Repair of inlet/outlet                    190 nos.
5        Repair of regulator                    138 nos.
6        Repair/ Re-sectioning of Embankment            310 km
7        Retired Embankment                    6 km
8        Re-excavation of khal                    410 km

b)  Non-Structural : Main Non-Structural Activities (upto June, 2019)

Sl.No.        Items of work                        Progress

1        WMG-Water Management Group                511 nos.
2        WMA-Water Management Association            36 nos.
3        FFS-Farmer Field School                    733 nos.
4        O&M Agreement signing between WMAs and
        Executive Engineers of concerned BWDB Divisions        24 nos.
5        Sub-committee formed for O&M of infrastructures        165 nos.
6        Savings of 511 nos WMG in Bank                752 lakh taka
7        Contribution of WMGs in O&M of infrastructures        44 lakh taka
8        Afforestation in Blue Gold polder area            35,500 nos.

Different activities are ongoing for crop based agricultural development, fishery, ducks, poultry, cattle rearing and marketing development under BGP.As a result, productivity of land as well as income has been increased of local stakeholders and community people. Proper training of WMG members on agriculture, livestock, fishery, poultry, livestock and vaccination is playing supportive role in increasing production of those sectors.
Womens' empowerment in blue gold program
Water Management Group (WMG) has been formed with inclusion of at least 55% of the household of that catchment area under any water control structure (Sluice or Regulator). On an average, 300 persons have been registered per WMG. Executive committee of each of the WMG constituted with 12 members. From the very beginning of this program, at least 33% female members have been included in the Executive Committee. Women members of the WMGs have been actively participating in the group meeting and decision making. Out of the women members of the WMG, through their active and popular role, 22 women have been elected as UP member. For training of Farmers Field School on crop production, fish, poultry, livestock rearing 50% women members have been included. In the training resources group good number of female trainers have been working.
Economic capacity enhancement
Savings of WMG members accumulated more than 7.5crore taka till June 2019. Around 42% of this savings/deposit has been distributed as loan at low interest to WMG members for supporting income generating activities. As a result they have become financially empowered and NGO based loan at a high interest in those areas has been
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stopped. The farmers have been taking Collative Actions under WMG for land preparation, seedling, application of fertilizer and insecticide etc, which needs less cost individually and thus saving money. They collectively buy seed, seedlings, fertilizers, fish feed, vaccine for poultry, cattle and other inputs from hole sale price, less per unit cost.
Polder area of Patuakhali and Barguna is suitable for additional crop the Mug Dal (Mungbean), a high value crop. Farmer have been trained to get the Mug Dal production as additional or chance crop after harvesting the Amonpaddy (wet season). For that they need to dry the land through draining the extra water from field. BGP has worked for network development with the WMG and an organization exporting Mud Dal to Japan. Since end of 2016, Mug Dal has been exporting to Japan from Patuakhali and Barguna area which has been gradually increasing. Farmers of the WMG are collectively selling Mug Dal and have been getting proper price. Motivated and benefitted farmers of the Patukhali and Barguna area are cultivating improved variety of Mud Dal (BARI-6), that needs minimum tillage for land preparation, don't need irrigation, inter-cultural operation, fertilizer or insecticide and thus they are getting more benefits.
Improved verities of Watermelon have been introduced in Polders of Patuakhali, Barguna and Khulna areas. Fellow land in the Polders are converted to Watermelon and other winter vegetables. In a few Polders, Dragon and improved Mango fruits have been introduced with the support of Horticulture Centre. These have been contributing to nutrition demand and economic enhancement of the community.
Analyzing remote sensing or satellite image(known as earth observation) data during 2013-2017, it has been observed that water logged area has been reduced as well as cultivable land has been increased in Blue Gold Polder areas, about 119,00 ha in 22 Polders. This study has been conducted by the Satteligence, a Dutch research organization. Single cropped land has been changed into double/triple cropped lands. The adjacent Polders of Blue Gold Polders in which no repair/ renovation program has been taken up; water logged area has been increasing gradually, probable double/triple cropped lands  have been changed into single cropped land. More than 56% water logged area has been decreased (Satellite data) in BGP areas with improved and integrated water management. DAE field data indicated cropping intensity increased 18.5% in the BGP area from 2013(base year-before implementation) up to August 2019. Productivity of land and water has been increased due to repair, renovation of water control structures and integrated water management with community participation. All these contributed up to 25% increase in income at household level in the BGP area during this period.
More than 400km Khal/Channel/Small rivers re-excavation(during 2014-2019)in the BGP area has been providing facility of quick drainage through regulator/sluice, removing flooding condition during rainy season and rain water preservation. Rain water preserved in the re-excavated Khals//Small rivers is contributing to irrigation, domestic use of saline free water and ground water recharge during the dry season. Many household ponds have brought under subsistence farming and improved extensive farming with local verity fish.
Network has been developed among the WMG, the BWDB, DAE, DoF, DLS, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Bangladesh Fishery Research Institute(BFRI) and Horticulture Centre through number of research and demonstration plots and ponds in the Blue Gold Polder area. At upozilla or district level, the DAE, DoF, and DLS have been extended services to the WMG on priority basis as they are the representative and organized group from the Polder or village.
Bangladesh and specilly the coastal Delta is the most active and dynamic Delta of the world. The erosion, accretion and silt deposition are continuously changing the river course and land scape of the coast. Adverse impact of climate change and sea level rise poses additional threats to the coast zone of Bangladesh. Therefore, there is no one tme solution of the dynamic situation of the Coastal Zone of Bangladesh. Though BGP has made significant step forward in the coastal Poders, it needs continuous updating, proper maintenance, motivated community participation and continuation of structural and non-structural activities for long run sustainance of the improved productivity of land and water.
It may be concluded that, drainage during monsoon and availability of usable water round the year has been ensured through repair/re-sectioning of embankment, re-excavation of interior channels/Khals, repair/re-construction, timely operation of water management infrastructures and active participation of local stakeholders of Polder area. Increased agricultural production as well as improvement of natural environment has become possible by protecting saline water intrusion through water control structures inside Polder area and storing/preserving rain water in re-excavated khal/channels and other water bodies. Natural resource based agricultural production, job opportunity and livelihood development have been accelerated. Improved livelihood of local people has become possible due to integrated and synchronous activities of water management, agricultural production and community involvement/participation. Production of crops and fishes in the water bodies inside Polder area has been increased due to proper drainage and availability of saline free useable water. Huge change is being observed in improvement of environment as well as in livelihood. Sustainable development has also become possible for these program activities.BGP has been playing an important role in poverty reduction and to achieve food security in14 upazilas of four districts through integrated participatory water management. This may be considered as a way forward for improvement of coastal polder water management.

(Md. Amirul Hossain post-graduated in Engineering has been working as Water Resources Engineer for more than 30 years. Area of his working covers Flood Control, Drainage and Irrigation (FCDI) Project planning and development, Flood Forecasting and Early Warning, Disaster Management, Application of Remote Sensing and Satellite Data on Water Management etc in Bangladesh. Presently Mr. Hossain has been working as Superintending Engineer, and Program Coordinating Director of Blue Gold Program, Bangladesh Water Development Board.
He contributed in a number of national and international seminars, workshop etc. A numbers of paper and article written by him have been published in national and international Journals and Proceedings home and abroad.)

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