Speakers at a programme said that the government needs to spend at least Tk 160 billion annually for construction, repair and protection of embankments at coastal areas to implement a five-year plan.
The government now has been allocating a minimum fund compared to the required amount due to lack of political will and more dependence on the donors that often hampers local needs and immediate actions during any natural disaster, they added.
Experts say that they estimated about US$ 10 billion for increasing the height of the coastal embankments 10 years back which has tripled now.
They urged the government to decentralise budgetary resource for sustainable embankment repair and management in coastal areas, involve community and local government engagement for effective management and maintenance of embankment that is already proven as low cost saving public resources and sustainable in the long term perspective.
They made the observations at a seminar on 'Climate Resilient Coastal Embankment and Participatory Management' at CIRDAP auditorium in the capital on Sunday.
Coast Trust organised the seminar with noted economist and Palli Karma Shahayak Foundation (PKSF) Chairman Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad in the chair.
Programme Coordinator of Coast Trust Arif Dewan presented the keynote paper.
At present, half of the total 45 million people or 35 per cent of the total population living in coastal areas are more vulnerable due to impact of climate change.
The salinity in the country has increased 26 per cent over the past 35 years. In coastal areas, salinity increase 3.5 to 4.5 per cent every year.
The coastal embankments were constructed in the 1960s. The embankments are considered to be the first line protection infrastructure that have been giving protection to people.
As per the data of Water Development Board (WDB), total length of the embankments in the country is 16,261 kilometres of which length of 117 coastal embankments is 5,757 kilometres.
The height of the coastal embankments has reduced over the past 60 years due to natural disasters specially cyclones and tidal surges. World Bank (WB) said that the height of the coastal embankments need to be increased from 15 to 20 feet to save the coastal areas from erosion.
In his paper, Arif said that in the fiscal year (FY) 2019-20, the government allocated Tk 79.32 billion for water resources ministry for construction, repair and maintenance of coastal embankments. Water Development Board (WDB) is responsible for construction of embankments at both coastal and non-coastal areas. The allocation of Tk 23.71 billion in this regard is very insignificant.
Arif alleged that these embankments are not being repaired timely and maintenance is not done. The increased frequency of natural disasters and tidal surges has damaged these embankments, and also reduced height.
He also said that people lose their livelihood opportunities in coastal areas and migrating to the cities create new types of hazards for the country due to lack of essential embankments.
He criticises that despite WDB (Water Development Board) is a responsible organisation for constructing coastal embankments, they hardly align their mandate addressing the climate change needs and protecting coastal people.
Arif Dewan also said that there is no specific guideline for construction of climate resilient embankment, the funding source and the required amount.
He suggested that Bangladesh must come out from over-dependence on the donors. The government has given the responsibility of constructing embankments at coastal areas on WB and ADB (Asian Development Bank) instead of allocating adequate fund.
But WB and ADB have not been funding any embankment project unless their interest is served. That has been creating obstacle in timely fund allocation to safeguard the coastal zones, Arif Dewan commented.
Civil Society Organisation (CSO) leader Asik Elahi said that the pattern and cause of embankment damage are different based on the locations.
He demanded to form 'Coastal Development Board' for better coordination to construct and maintenance of embankments.
Chairman of Swandip union parishad Shahiduddin said that embankment design and planning are prepared centrally based on just a hydrological study that has little connection with local situation. It should be changed, and it has to be prepared with community participation, as community has the appropriate knowledge.
It is also proved that with local resource mobilisation, local people constructed the embankment with appropriate technology and also with low cost and did it in quickest possible time, Shahiduddin commented.
Chairman of Swandip upazila parishad Faridul Islam said that community engaged embankment management and maintenance is cost effective where instant implementation is possible. WDB maintenance-- especially their tender and contracting approach-- is very complicated and uncertain in respect of timeliness for implementation.
Dr Quazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmed said if the WDB is accountable to local government then it will also ensure participation of local resources with the people's idea and appropriate technology. He also supported the formation of Coastal Development Board for better sectoral coordination. The plans should give priority to local and regional problems and using domestic resources.
Criticising the inaction of Haor Development Board, he said that the same thing should not happen in case of Coastal Development Board.
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