The Netherlands and Bangladesh have worked closely for a long time. Now that Bangladesh is undergoing strong economic growth, new challenges and opportunities are arising, including in the water and agriculture sectors. Dutch expertise is very welcome in dealing with water related issues.
This is why the Partners for Water Programme allocated a budget for a Delegated Representative (DR) for Bangladesh. Martijn van de Groep was appointed DR in January. “My role as Delegated Representative is really to act as a local extension of the Bangladesh Delta team,” says Van de Groep. “I work with the Dutch Embassy in Dhaka, Dutch ministries, the RVO and NWP to support the Bangladesh Government in the area of water policies.”
Support in implementing the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100
Van de Groep’s most important job is to support the implementation of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (BDP) that got the green light in 2018. It is an ambitious plan that describes the national and regional strategies, including climate adaptation, up to 2100. Water security is the most important consideration in the plan. The short-term investment – up to 2030 – is USD 38 billion. The BDP is based on the Dutch model, but goes far beyond the Dutch Delta Works as it is also designed to help the country reach ‘upper middle income status’ by 2030 and it thus also includes various economic aspects.
“There are several major challenges in rolling out the plan,” says Van de Groep. “Firstly, the recommendations in the document need to be incorporated into the existing plans of the relevant ministries. Secondly, good relationships need to be forged with the regions and to do this, more people need to know about the BDP. An awareness campaign would be useful to familiarise people with the BDP. Thirdly, financing needs to be secured. This should be derived from taxes as well as from international partners such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, JiCa, China, India and so on, and from private entities.”
The Dhaka Conference
To seek out solutions for these challenges, Van de Groep is planning to hold a two-day Delta conference in Bangladesh in 2021. “We will work out the BDP in detail with about 150 stakeholders from government, science, the private sector and international partners. We will zoom in on the problems in particular areas in Bangladesh. One of these that is on the agenda is the coastal zone where we have to think about how to deal with the issue of salinisation. But another area is the north west of Bangladesh where drought is the main challenge. Yet another area is the wetlands where we have to see how flooding can best be handled. We will look at how Bangladesh can deal with these divergent issues in practice.”
“All the conference participants know each other,” continues Van de Groep, “but during the conference we will pull them out of their everyday activities and, as it were, let them loose in a pressure cooker to address the overriding challenges. We will ask them to think about what needs to be done and where, why, when and how, and how it will all be financed. By getting them to work closely with each other for two days, we hope to achieve much. It will be an important platform to bring water and agriculture people together. By the way, the Netherlands is not organising this event by itself. It is just one of the co-organisers along with the Government of Bangladesh, the EU, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and JiCa.”
The Delta Team appointed the DR to be on the ground to solve water-related issues. Dutch expertise can play a significant role here. He explains that “Now that Bangladesh is undergoing major economic growth, the balance is shifting from a relationship with the Netherlands based on development cooperation towards a more intensive collaboration based on economic growth. Dutch companies can be very useful in implementing the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100.”
Mapping opportunities with market scans
“In the near future we will carry out market scans of the water and agriculture sectors to map the challenges on the ground and their potential for deploying Dutch knowledge and technology. We can then promote the needs to Dutch companies and let them know that there are opportunities for them. The companies could be those working in water technology, inland shipping, logistics or port related activities, for example. But they could also be seed breeding companies too. We are looking for reliable partners in Bangladesh for these companies. Once we have done this, we will work closely with the Dutch Top Sectors to organise a customised trade mission.”
Partners for Water Ezine
This article is part of the Partners for Water Ezine, an online publication of NWP and RVO highlighting the water activities within several countries marked ‘delta cooperation’, part of the water policy of the Dutch government called NIWA. The delta cooperation emphasises the exchange of knowledge on water management to create solutions on water safety en water security worldwide. Read the full Ezine (in Dutch).