The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta has newly emerged ‘char’ islands resulting from the deposition of sediment. These mighty rivers flow into the Bay of Bengal, which is continuously changing. Satellite pictures show that each year about 52 km 2 of newly formed land accretes, and about 32 km 2 erodes from the coasts. Hence, the result is a net 20 km 2 /year deposition of sediments carried by the Padma (Ganges), the Meghna and the Jamuna (Brahmaputra) from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal.
By law the newly accreted coastal land belongs to the Ministry of Land, Government of Bangladesh and is entitled ‘khas’ land. Institutionally the new char lands are virgin territory where service deliveries of government agencies are rarely present. Living conditions on the chars are harsh, the land is completely inaccessible and can only be reached by boat and on foot. The people living there are exposed to nature and the land is flooded on a regular basis. There is no safe drinking water, health services or sanitation, no agricultural inputs, and no education. As a result, coastal chars are reigned over by so-called ‘jotdars’ and ‘bahinis’/’mastans’ the local power holders who provide temporary protection to poor char dwellers in return for illegal money.
The Government of Bangladesh intends to bring coastal chars under productive human settlement with the goal of a better economic situation for the char dwellers. To reduce the social, institutional and environmental vulnerability faced in char areas, the Government initiated the Land Reclamation Project (LRP) which has been implemented by the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) during 1979-91 with grant support from the Government of the Netherlands.
The Char Development and Settlement Project (CDSP) was the successor of this project; CDSP-I was formulated based on the experience of LRP and successfully implemented during 1994-99. Since then, development of newly accreted chars through polder development and providing secure land titles to poor landless char dwellers has become the core development approach of CDSP.
CDSP became a multi-agency integrated project with BWDB as lead agency and the participation of: Ministry of Land, Local Government Engineering Department, Department of Agricultural Extension, Forest Department and Department of Public Health Engineering. The first three phases of CDSP were implemented solely with grant support from the Government of the Netherlands and the Government of Bangladesh. In the fourth phase of CDSP, the United Nations International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) came forward with credit support for the Government of Bangladesh. In July 2019, a new phase as Bridging (Additional Financing) was initiated and will be completed by June 2022. CDSP B (AF) has these characteristics: The overall objective of CDSP is to reduce poverty and hunger for poor char dwellers living on newly accreted coastal chars, which is being achieved via improved and more secure livelihoods.
-> A first specific objective of the Project is to consolidate the achievements of the earlier CDSP phases I-IV. The Project continues support for CDSP I, II, III, & IV areas with operation and maintenance activities and land settlement. Security for people and livelihoods has already been provided during these phases via climate resilient infrastructure and by providing poor households with legal title to land.
-> A second specific objective of the Project is the preparation of future investments in char development in the South Eastern delta.