News and Update: World Bank Approves New Water Project in Bangladesh

The World Bank signalled its re-entry in the water sector in Bangladesh by approving a massive US$102.26 million credit financing Water Management Improvement Project in Bangladesh.

This is the largest World Bank loan to the water sector in Bangladesh since civil society protest forced the Bank to withdraw from Bangladesh water sector in the early nineties over the infamous mega-project Flood Action Plan (FAP).

This new project is “designed to enhance water management by expanding the role of local communities, from planning and design to operations and management. It also aims to improve institutional performance of the country’s principal water institutions ─ Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) and Water Resources Planning Organization (WARPO)“.

The project targets an estimated that 2 million households. The claimed objective of the project is to “reduce crop losses during the pre-monsoon and monsoon periods and increase agricultural production due to improved drainage and flood control and expansion of irrigation”.

Bangladesh is prone to recurring natural disasters like floods, erosion, cyclones and tidal surges that result in human casualties and economic losses. Each year, up to 30 percent of the country is inundated, flooding about 6 million hectares. People living in coastal and riverine areas in general are specially exposed to the dangers of natural disasters. A series of ill planned flood control and irrigation project funded by donors, often disregarding the ecological characteristics of the river system, worsened the problem and created river drainage congestion and waterlogging problems in Bangladesh.

The project will finance “rehabilitation and improvement of about 102 existing flood control, drainage, and irrigation schemes and transfer their management to the local communities through Water Management Organizations (WMOs). It will also support measures to improve performance of another 98 existing schemes that do not require major rehabilitation and have functioning WMO’s or similar organizations”.

Water experts have already warned that the creation of Water Management Associations (WMOs) is linked to the conditions imposed by the Bank to introduce “cost recovery” princliples. In many parts of Bangladesh introduction of “cost recovery” principles in irrigation projects has exposed the marginal farmers to market mechanisms that comes with privtization of irrigation.

The credit from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary arm, has 40 years to maturity with a 10-year grace period; it carries a service charge of 0.75 percent.

For more information and documents about the project visit the World Bank website.

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