The government is going to build a river-based economic corridor by improving navigability in the 205-kilometre area of the River Jamuna's Rangpur to Sirajganj point.
The water resources ministry is formulating the Jamuna River economic corridor development programme in the first step to execute the plan.
As part of the project, river training and maintenance will routinely be carried out to turn the vicinity into a naval communication hub.
According to the World Bank, if the project involving $13.4 billion under the centennial Delta Plan is implemented, it will add $362 billion to the country's economy up to 2044.
All these issues have come up recently at a meeting of the implementation committee of the project titled "Support to implementation of Bangladesh Delta Plan" under the General Economics Division (GED) of the Planning Commission.
According to the GED, if the navigability of the River Jamuna increases through dredging, a huge amount of land can be reclaimed, plus food production on both banks of the river will also increase through sustainable irrigation.
Besides, since water transportation is an alternative to roads and railways, goods will be easily transported to India, Nepal, and Bhutan.
As part of the river-based economic system, the World Bank has also suggested building eco-tourism, townships, and education hubs on the banks of the Jamuna.
The World Bank has already given its consent to provide $1.3 billion in loans for the project, and the government has also sought financial assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).
In a statement, the World Bank said if the area turns into a river-based economic corridor through planned development, Bangladesh's annual exports will rise by $30 billion.
GED member Shamsul Alam told The Business Standard in the light of the centennial plan, work will be done to reduce damages because of climate change through river and coastal management across the country, increase agricultural production and improve goods transportation by sea.
He said a 205-kilometre area of the River Jamuna has been identified for the project primarily. In addition to increasing navigability in this area, there will be planned development on both banks while goods will be transported by water to India and Nepal, and Bhutan.
The Dutch government had provided support in formulating the Delta Plan while assistance has also been sought from the World Bank, Jica, ADB, AIIB, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, added Shamsul.
"Various donor countries have agreed to provide us with support," said the GED member.
Areas for spending 13.4 billion
Of the World Bank's proposed investment in the development of the economic corridor centring Jamuna, $2.8 billion will be spent on river dredging and excavation.
Some $3.7 billion has been proposed for spending on river training, while $5.9 billion will be spent on building economic zones. In addition, operating and maintaining various types of infrastructure will cost another $1 billion.
In all, $13.4 billion has been identified as investment demand for the project.
According to the World Bank, once the project is completed, river erosion, floods, and crop losses will be reduced and every family on the coast will be able to save $1,250 to $2,000 a year.
Although the poverty rate has come down to 25% across the country, it is still 37% in the districts along the banks of Jamuna. The project will play an important role in eliminating the inequality in poverty alleviation, observed the global lender.
The World Bank also said due to lack of navigability in Jamuna, no vessels weighing more than 500 tonnes can run there. If the depth of this river increases, the annual freight traffic between India and Bangladesh will treble from 35 lakh tonnes to 1.15 core tonnes. The amount will increase further if the goods are transported to Nepal and Bhutan.
In addition, the cost of transporting goods by sea is lower than that of by road and rail, and environmental damage can be prevented, said the World Bank report.
Delta fund to finance delta related projects
The GED has finalised the draft of the delta fund to finance the project related to the delta plan, said the officials concerned working on the project.
The plan identified 80 investment priorities worth $38 billion, while 65 are from infrastructure projects and 15 institutional and knowledge development projects. The amount is three to four times the resources available at present.
GED member Shamsul Alam said the government has been spending 0.6%–0.8% of GDP on the water sector for over the last decade, which will be increased to 2.5% gradually.
Of the 2.5% of GDP, 2% will be spent on new investment and 0.5% on operation and maintenance purposes.
GED to establish Delta Wing
The GED formulated the draft to establish a delta wing to comply with the responsibility of overall coordination, facilitation, and updating the activities of delta plan implementation.
The draft proposal was internally reviewed twice. Recently, the GED high-ups reviewed it again and made some recommendations.