The impact of flood control on rural development in Bangladesh : post evaluation of the Chandpur Project
In Bangladesh flood mitigation strategies have concentrated on embankments. However, due to a perceived lack of success with this strategy and high returns to irrigation development, the emphasis in water management switched towards small scale irrigation. Serious floods in 1987 and 1988 have renewed interest in flood mitigation. However, there is a lack of detailed evidence on the impacts of embankments. This study provides just such evidence. The study comprises a detailed post-evaluation of a major flood control, drainage and irrigation project, the Chandpur Irrigation Project. The results show that the project has been successful in reducing normal monsoon water levels, with consequent changes in cropping patterns to higher yielding varieties. However, a with-without comparison revealed that expected yields (allowing for risks of flooding and drainage problems) were less than predicted due to drainage problems within the project, whereas non-project expected yields are as predicted. Hence agricultural output has increased substantially, but output and its value are less than anticipated. Household incomes in the project are 25&37 higher (on average) than in control areas, but this is because larger landowners have gained from greater returns to agriculture (for example, from preferential access to irrigation), and diversifying into other occupations. Some households have gained by selling land and obtaining salaried jobs elsewhere or by becoming traders. By comparison small landowners may be slightly less prone to losses in flood years but have not moved into surplus. Landless labourers have similar incomes inside and outside the project; real wages are unchanged, and increased work has not compensated for population growth. Inside the project changes in landholding category have been fewer than outside. Open water fish populations have been reduced by the embankment, particularly affecting poor households. However, fish cultivation has expanded more than in flood prone areas, benefiting pond owners and enabling professional fishermen to maintain their incomes (at the cost of greater dependence on larger landowners). Improved methods of post-evaluation (which have implications for appraisal of new projects) are developed to incorporate flood risks and consequent yield reductions and non-agricultural damages, and to standardise economic valuation. Applying these methods revealed that the Chandpur Project has been, despite an uneven distribution of benefits, relatively successful (an economic rate of return of at least 5%). Although there are some project specific reasons for this success, this project has suffered many problems typical of embankment in Bangladesh. Hence embankments are potentially important for the future economic development of Bangladesh - by reducing damage and disruption and increasing agricultural output. The study concludes with recommendations for improved flood plain planning in Bangladesh, using detailed flood loss data and improved appraisal methods, to ensure that choice of flood mitigation strategies and investments are rational, and that all public investments take flood risks into account.