The char lands in Bangladesh are low-lying islands naturally formed by silt carried by rivers flowing into the Bay of Bengal.
Flat and fertile, these sedimentary mudbanks are good for farming when they form, but floods and storms, exacerbated by climate change, often wash them away, making char lands among the most hostile environments for settler farmers because, overnight, families can lose their homes and farms.
This week UK-headquartered engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald said it had been appointed by the Netherlands’ embassy in Bangladesh as technical advisor for the $54.7m latest phase of the Char Development and Settlement Project (CDSP), which aims to provide better security for settlers by stabilising chars, supporting agriculture, and giving settlers title to land.
Hero Heering, Mott MacDonald’s project director said: "This project will provide security and homes for thousands of people and we are proud to be involved."
- See how the CDSP programme is help Bangladesh’s char-land settlers here
Mott MacDonald will advise on protecting settled chars from salt water intrusion and flooding, ensuring access to potable water, agricultural technologies and communications infrastructure to connect chars to external markets and population centres.
It will also help plan for future land development and settlement based on hydro-morphological analysis, and help design more permanent institutional and organisational arrangements for the government of Bangladesh.
So far under the CDSP, more than 11,800 families have been granted land titles, says one of the scheme’s funders, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
It says that in all, 143 communities with 29,000 households in the chars are vulnerable to cyclones and storm surges, floods and drainage congestion, droughts and salinity intrusion, erosion and deteriorating ecosystems.
Money for this latest, three-year CDSP-Bridging project comes from a grant from the Netherlands ($5.7m), a loan from IFAD ($20.6m), the Bangladeshi government ($24.6m), other non-governmental organisations and the beneficiaries.
Six agencies of the government of Bangladesh are involved.
Image: Maize processing in char of Sirajganj, Bangladesh (Afifa Afrin/CC BY-SA 3.0)