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CHAPTER 10: CUMULATIVE IMPACTS AND SUSTAINABILITY ANALYSIS
10.1 CUMULATIVE IMPACTS
10.1.1 IntroductionThis section examines how Plan impacts add to (or subtract from) the impacts of non-Plan activities and processes.
10.1.2 Cumulative Impacts of Plan ProjectsImplementation of the various Plan projects implies an accumulation of impacts across the portfolio. This type of accumulation is internal to the Plan, and has been discussed in Section 9.2 above.
10.1.3 Plan + Increasing PopulationWhat effects could Regional Plan implementation (i.e. water management development over then next 20 years) have on population growth in the Northeast Region?
Many of the Regional Plan strategies and initiatives address income, public health, and nutrition objectives, and through them could affect birth, death, and thus population growth rates. A straightforward (Malthusian) interpretation suggests that increasing food availability and improved public health would raise the population growth rate. A more nuanced interpretation of recent experience in developed and developing countries suggests that population growth rates are highly dependent upon parents' perceptions of ideal or desired family size; perceived insecurity in old age; and acceptance of and access to effective family planning. These factors are in turn strongly influenced by income, child mortality, women's status, and access to family planning services (World Bank, 1992). All but the last (which very clearly lies entirely outside the ambit of water management planning) would be impacted positively by strategy implementation.
In practice, a population growth rate was applied as a boundary condition to the regional water management planning exercise. That is, an expected growth rate was assumed for the region, to be taken into account in formulating the Plan. This amounts to a linearization of the problem: the assumed population growth rate incorporates a priori approximations of Regional Plan and other development impacts. Also, the positive relationships between reduced population growth, income growth for poor households, reduced child mortality, and improved status of women (which have been incorporated into national development planning through the Fourth Five Year Plan 1990/1 - 1994/5), were recognized in defining Plan objectives.
10.1.4 Plan + Growth of Urban Populations and InfrastructureIn addition to the urbanization and migration impacts noted previously in Section 10.3.2, flood control will accelerate infrastructure development and in-migration into flood-prone urban and peri-urban areas. Over time, this may increase total flood damage, integrated over floods of all recurrence intervals: damage from more frequent, lower magnitude floods will be somewhat less, but damage from less frequent, high magnitude floods which overwhelm water control infrastructure will be much greater because of the increased population and investment. In addition to this, however, flood control will reduce hidden costs associated with exposure to frequent flood damage, such as the cost of low productivity due to low investment; that is, there is a trade off between incremental flood damage and incremental productivity gains.
As the bias of national development in general, and FCD in particular, shifts away from agriculture and toward urban-based sectors, there is a need to strengthen the planning, development, and management of urban areas. One aspect of this would be to raise awareness among involved public and private institutions (municipal corporations, financial institutions, major industrial firms, and small entrepreneurs) about flood risks and proper methods for assessing flood risks. This would enable involved parties to make informed investment decisions. And, at the level of FCD project feasibility studies, there will be a need to investigate both the direct and hidden flood damage costs associated with a range of project and urban development scenarios.
10.1.5 Plan + Climate ChangeOver the 20 year period of the Regional Plan, air temperature and sea level will remain effectively constant (i.e. the presumed rates of increase of both are too slow to be discerned over this short time interval).
The tendency observed over recent decades of increasing rainfall and increasing rainfall variability, whether or not this is the expression of anthropogenic changes to the atmosphere, serves well as a prototype for possible future rainfall trends in the region. Impacts of a cumulative nature (Plan + increasing rainfall) relate mainly to:
Increasing river discharges and water levels (embankments + increased rainfall), leading to morphologic changes (wider channels, aggradation/degradation waves propagating through the system, and increased channel instability and type switching).
Mitigation of increasing rainfall impacts -- drainage improvement could reduce system drainage overloading, habitat conservation and restoration could ensure that development options (swamp forest) suitable for the new conditions are preserved, and so on.
If, on the other hand, rainfall decreases to or below previous levels:
Existing and Plan FCD investments will produce less benefits relative to the without-project situation, and
Some existing and Plan partial flood control projects might function as full flood control projects and thus significantly more adverse effects on fisheries, navigation, and possibly other environmental components.
10.1.6 Plan + Tipaimukh ImplementationThe impacts of the Tipaimukh Dam/Cachar Plain Irrigation project are included in the FWO scenario. Thus, in principle, cumulative impacts of Plan + Tipaimukh implementation are already reflected in the discussions in Chapter 9 and in the Plan impacts discussed above. In practice, however, the project pre-feasibility studies of the four projects affected by the dam used historical (no dam) data, and thus their impacts were quantified in terms of [FW (no dam) - FWO (no dam)]. This introduces unknown errors in impacts and in project design and costs.
10.1.7 Plan + Changing Patterns of Energy Production and ConsumptionBangladesh has access to a rich variety of energy sources, including:
Biomass fuels from natural sources (wetland plants, natural forest logs, branches, undergrowth, and leaf litter, and so on), from `mines' of peat and buried wood, from agricultural residues (rice straw, rice husks, jute sticks), and from dried manure; mainly for cooking;
Animal draught power for ploughing, threshing, and transportation;
Human energy inputs to post-harvest processing, planting, weeding, fishing, gathering, traditional irrigation, and many other activities;
Fossil fuels (domestically-produced natural gas and derivatives, imported fuels), including those used to generate electricity, for lighting, mechanized irrigation, transportation, navigation, rice-milling, brick kilns, lime burning, and many other industries, and other uses;
Solar energy for drying grain, and, potentially at least, cooking.
Fossil fuel usage is of particular interest, because such fuels are imported (except for domestically-produced natural gas and its derivatives), non-renewable, and contribute to environmental pollution. Increasing dependence on them increases external dependence, economic unsustainability, and public health and ecological problems.
Fossil fuel consumption is expected to remain very low in Bangladesh compared even to other developing countries, and staggeringly so in comparison to the older and newly industrialized countries. Because the contribution of Bangladesh to global fossil fuel consumption is so insignificant, concern for local energy/fossil fuel use issues logically takes precedence over concern for global issues (e.g. CO2 emissions).
Local energy issues include: access to and management responsibility for sustainable energy supplies by the poor; local self-reliance; national vulnerability to fossil fuel price and supply swings; foreign export costs; improved management of the national draught and dairy herd; and emphasis on appropriate-technology sustainable energy supplies and energy conservation.
Numerous Plan interventions would promote agricultural intensification (in particular irrigation pumping), accelerate urban and industrial development, and alter wetland productivity both negatively (most FCD) and positively (habitat conservation and restoration). These changes imply alterations in the type and quantity of energy sources exploited. Agricultural intensification will greatly increase by-product (mainly rice straw) mass. It will also slightly increase fossil fuel usage, both directly for mechanized irrigation, and indirectly through fossil fuel-derived inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. Urban and industrial development will greatly increase demands on electric generating capacity and thus fossil fuel usage. Wetland productivity changes will alter supplies of natural biomass fuels; some interventions will cause increases, and others will cause decreases.
At the same time, other developmental trends independent of water management development will also alter energy production and consumption patterns, in particular increasing fossil fuel usage.
To date there has been little if any meaningful national energy planning. In the absence of such a framework, it was not possible to orient Plan interventions specifically toward energy-related objectives, other than through economic analyses which incorporated costs for irrigation, pumped drainage, and the like. Proposed interventions are not highly sensitive to marginal changes in fossil fuel prices.
10.1.8 Plan + Increased Water ContaminationThe primary water quality issue is bacteriological contamination, related to inadequate sanitation and unsafe water supply, accompanied by deficient hygiene practices. This issue would be addressed through continuations of ongoing DPHE/UNICEF programmes, which are included in the Plan project portfolio.
Industrial pollution will be an area of increasing concern, if industrial development accelerates during the Plan period as targeted by Government. Industrial development could be accelerated through Plan investments in urban flood control. Industrial pollution is addressed directly through the NEMREP project.
10.2 SUSTAINABILITY ANALYSIS
10.2.1 IntroductionThis section addresses the following questions:
10.2.2 Question 1: Overall SustainabilityWill Plan interventions:
Future generations: Some of the FCD interventions have the potential for compromising options of future generations. For example, embankments and the Manu Diversion could have irreversible impacts on river morphology, settlement, and urban development patterns, reduction of key wetland habitats, and loss of regional biodiversity. For each proposed intervention, key subsidiary themes need to be explored, relating to:
The potential of proposed Plan interventions to compromise these needs is examined as part of the project and Plan environmental evaluations' socioeconomic sections, where employment impacts, displacement impacts, socioeconomic equity, gender equity, and impacts on conflicts are assessed. The findings of these assessments indicate that most if not all the FCD projects have some potential for negative effects on (compromise the essential needs of) individuals belonging to poorer socioeconomic groups. These potential effects include exercising right of eminent domain on homesteads belonging to poor people to allow embankment construction and channel excavation; reducing total employment opportunities for hired labourers, or reducing employment opportunities in fishing or for poorer women; and creating or exacerbating conflicts between interest groups (in which the less powerful, which usually means the poorer, group would be expected to lose out). Potential mitigation or compensation measures have been identified in some instances, but not in others. Feasibility studies of these projects will need to investigate these issues further if sustainability with regard to this criterion is to be achieved.
System capabilities: Proposed Plan interventions took technological and social system capabilities into account as follows. Existing technological and social systems of resource exploitation and management were extensively studied, in the areas of water management, agriculture, river manipulations, fisheries, navigation, wetland resources, water quality, and village social systems. These systems were then analyzed in terms of strengths, weaknesses (needs for change), opportunities for change, and threats (undesirable changes which could occur unless action is taken). Potential interventions were formulated based on this information. As the proposed projects are studied and developed further, issues related to social and technological system capability will need continued attention.
Proposed Plan interventions have taken technological and social system capabilities into account in two ways. First, existing technological and social systems of resource exploitation and management were extensively studied, in the areas of water management, agriculture, river manipulations, fisheries, navigation, wetland resources, water quality, and village social systems. Second, potential interventions were formulated reflecting an analysis of these systems' strengths, weaknesses (needs for change), opportunities for change, and threats (undesirable changes which could occur unless action is taken).
For example, it was recognized that maintenance and operation of FCD projects has been weak, and that improvements in this area will be needed if both existing and proposed FCD projects are to realize their full potential; thus increased attention has been paid to this area in each of the proposed FCD project pre-feasibility studies. Another more direct example are the NEMREP initiatives which address pollution abatement; these reflect the recognition that the enhanced industrial development sought by the Government will contribute to seriously unsustainable levels of environmental contamination (i.e. above rates of breakdown and assimilation) unless action is taken.
As the proposed projects are studied and developed further, issues related to social and technological system capability will need continued attention.
10.2.3 Question 2: Sustainability of Resource UseHow will Plan interventions impact rates of resource use, and will the Plan contribute to rates which exceed regeneration rates or the rates of development of sustainable substitutes?
Affected resources include:
10.2.4 Question 3: Sustainability of System Capacity to Assimilate and Break Down PollutionPlan implementation will increase pesticide use by 9% and fertilizer use by 20%. Despite this, use rates in the Northeast Region are and will remain very low even by developing country standards. Thus, the key issues in this area will relate to regulation of pesticide imports to prevent dumping of materials barred by industrialized countries for environmental reasons, and better public education to improve handling (e.g. not to reuse pesticide containers for water or food) and to ensure compounds are applied at minimum effective levels.
NEMREP initiatives would improve management of industrial and domestic effluents.
10.2.5 Question 4: Irreversible ImpactsOngoing natural morphological processes in the region are irreversible -- river channel development, overland sedimentation, erosion -- and, in many cases, have adverse biophysical and socioeconomic impacts. Some Plan initiatives seek to alter the course of these events and may themselves be irreversible.
Embankments and closures, in this environment, seem to be all too reversible in their vulnerability to erosion, breaches, public cuts, and channel shifting. In principle, however, these types of structures should be viewed as irreversible alterations to the landscape. Likewise some of their effects, in particular displacement and biodiversity impacts, should be viewed as irreversible.
These interventions can threaten ecosystem viability, species survival, and life-sustaining processes, and place the ability of future generations to meet their own needs at risk, unless projects are very carefully designed and operated to avoid these outcomes.
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