The overall objective of the Blue Gold Program
Bangladesh’s South-Western Coastal Zone
Bangladesh, the largest river delta in the world, depends for its economic growth largely on integrated and sustainable water resources management. The three major river systems of the country mark its physiography and life of its people. Its waters – its “blue gold” – have fundamentally shaped Bangladesh culture. Efficient management of this immense natural resource remains a continuing challenge and offers at the same time tremendous opportunities. Starting from the 1960s, low lying tracts of land in the south-western coastal zone were enclosed by earthen embankments to create polders which protect coastal communities from tidal floods and surges – there are now 139 polders enclosed by embankments of an overall length of nearly 6,000 km.
About 38% of the population in the coastal regions of Bangladesh live below the poverty line and face high vulnerabilities in terms of insecurity of food, income, water and health. However, there are ample opportunities to harness the resources of the coastal areas that can lift the population from poverty, create a sustainable environment and provide security and quality of life to present and future generations.
In addition to suffering from the effects of tidal floods and surges, the people in the coastal polders are vulnerable to the intrusion of saline water, shortage of fresh water in the dry season and the impact of extreme events such as cyclones. In the south-western coastal zone, river siltation hinders drainage and causes prolonged water logging in the polder after monsoon rains, which can persist for extended periods of up to six months. This in turn results in loss of crops and income, reduced food security and explains in part the higher than average poverty levels in the coastal belt. Climate change will only increase the threats posed to coastal livelihoods.
Blue Gold Program
To address this situation, the Governments of Bangladesh and The Netherlands agreed to support the development of the region through participatory water management and agricultural production with a business-orientation.
A number of government agencies implement the program. The Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) is the lead agency, responsible inter alia for protecting the communities from flooding and surges by ensuring the integrity of the embankments and associated structures, and for forming and registering water management organisations (WMOs). The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) works alongside farmers to encourage the selection and cultivation of crops and varieties that are well-suited to the coastal environment and which, as part of an interlinked annual cropping system, form the basis for profitable business. In addition, the Department of Livestock Services (DLS) and Department of Fisheries (DoF) provide specialist advice for the development of training modules to farmer field schools, and contribute to other project interventions. Local government institutions (LGIs), especially Union Parishads (UPs), are partners in polder development planning, coordination and maintenance.
The twenty-two polders selected for interventions through Blue Gold cover around 119224 ha in the districts of Patuakhali, Khulna, Satkhira and Barguna.
March 2013 – December 2021 (8 years and 9 months)
Districts of Patuakhali, Khulna and Satkhira (see: maps)
- Government of the Netherlands (GoN)
Government of Bangladesh (GoB)
- Ministry of Water Resources, through Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) – Lead Agency
- Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE)
Technical Assistance Consultants:
- Euroconsult Mott MacDonald (lead)
- BETS Consulting; IDE
Total budget: EURO 75.9 million
GoN: EURO 61.9 million
GoB: EURO 14.0 million
Contribution to Millennium Development Goals
Blue Gold specifically contributes in achieving the following Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for Bangladesh:
- MDG1 “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”
- MDG3 “promote gender equality and empower women”
- MDG7 “ensuring environmental sustainability” (access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities)