Project Overview

According to Bangladesh National Sustainable Development Strategy (May 2013), land use in the country is diverse and often conflicting: it is intensively used for agriculture, settlements, forests, shrimp ghers, natural fisheries, salt production, industrial and infrastructural developments and tourism. All these have resulted into the following features: demand for expansion in all land uses (urban area, settlement, shrimp etc.); increasing demands for new uses (tourism, export processing zones and others); conflicting land uses and demands, and encroachment and conversion of land from one use to the other. The population is increasing and the land is being converted from directly productive purposes, such as crop cultivation, to other uses like housing and roads and urban development. It is reported that cultivated land has been declining by almost one percent per year. Present per capita agricultural land of 0.05 ha will be decreased to 0.025 ha by 2050. Without effective measures to arrest this alarming trend the land available for crop production will continue to fall.

Degradation of land refers to loss of its potential production capability as a result of degradation of soil quality and also its loss for effective use. Estimates by BARC indicate that soil related problems may be a major constraint on agricultural growth. Declining soil fertility, soil erosion, and salinization affect 5.6– 8.7 million hectares, 5.3 hectares, and 3.05 million hectares of land respectively. Soil erosion being GEF-5 PIF Template-February 2013 4 irreversible, is generally regarded as the most serious problem of soil degradation. Various kinds of soil erosion such as sheet, rill and gully erosion, land slide, riverbank erosion and coastal erosion are occurring in Bangladesh. Accelerated soil erosion has been encountered in the hilly regions of the country.

Soil fertility has declined due to high cropping intensity, unbalanced or over use of chemical fertilizers and less or no use of organic matter. One of the important causes of land degradation in Bangladesh is over-exploitation of biomass from the cultivation fields for fuel, fodder and thatching. BARC estimates that organic matter depletion is observed in 7.5 million hectares of land. With the loss of organic matter soils could become more susceptible to drought. The critical areas in this respect are the areas where Aus followed by transplanted Aman are grown. Another critical area is the Barind Tract, the western part of which shows symptoms of increasing aridity during the dry months, i.e., March and May. The exploitation of ground water for irrigation for dry season rice farming (boro) has gone beyond the capacity of annual recharge of aquifers, with adverse effects on the supply of safe drinking water. The irrigated area has expanded to over 5.5 million ha out of 8.0 million ha of cultivated land, and over threefourths of the area is irrigated with ground water, mostly by privately installed shallow tube wells. The arsenic contamination of drinking water in large parts of the country is often blamed to exploitation of ground water for irrigation with shallow tube wells.

The north-west region of the country especially the Barind area shows signs of desertification. Such threats will accentuate under current climate change scenario. The country loses about 10,000 ha of land to river erosion every year. Land degradation in the coastal areas of Bangladesh is a result of recurring cyclones and storm surges, which inundate the land. Practice of shrimp cultivation round the year is ultimately increasing the salinity of the degraded soil. Intrusion of saline water in the dry season is attributed to the low flow in the river system. The erosion is particularly severe in Kurigram, Gaibandha, Jamalpur, Bogra, Sirajganj, Tangail, Pabna and Manikganj districts which lie in the erosion prone area along the Jamuna River. Erosion of total area and settlement is higher along the left bank compared with the right bank. Along the Padma river, the districts of Rajbari, Faridpur, Manikganj, Dhaka, Munshiganj and Shariatpur are erosion prone. Chandpur on Lower Meghna is also seriously erosion prone. This loss of land in a land scarce country has serious socio-economic impact. There is great potential of increasing land area along the coast of the country. Since 1973, land has been accreted in the Noakhali coast at a rate of 18 It is projected that by the year of 2050, a land mass of 1,000 sq km can be raised. The process of reclamation can be accelerated through variety of means. If it can be done in a sustainable manner then the country will be greatly benefitted by the extra land.

Natural processes that lead to land degradation in Bangladesh can be considered part of the ongoing land formation process. The upliftment and deposition processes that led particularly to formation of land in the regions of Sylhet, Chittagong, Barind and Madhupur continued during the period of the Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene ages. Throughout the Pleistocene time up to the present, the rivers have been depositing heavy sediments to build up the country’s flat alluvial plain, although the processes of erosion and deposition have not been similar all along. There are a few studies on recent sedimentation and erosion that show these processes have been aggravated by human interventions such as encroachment for settlement and improper agricultural practices.

However, land degradation shows regional specificity. Land degradation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is occurring mainly due to rapid changes in demographic patterns, development of roadways and other physical infrastructure. Jhum cultivation, the traditional community-based agricultural method practiced by the indigenous people of the CHT, is one of the major causes of land degradation. Degradation of land in the hilly area has also occurred due to destruction of forestland and loss of land cover.

The Madhupur forest area has almost been denuded due to deforestation and has further been aggravated by many other factors such as its closeness to the capital city, improvement of road communication GEF-5 PIF Template-February 2013 5 leading to displacement of population, urbanization and industrialization. This land, a Pleistocene terrace, is naturally raised and flood-free, therefore, it is attractive for infrastructural development. The land in the area has further been degraded by the development activities related to building of the Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge.

Land degradation in the Barind Tract is caused mainly due to over exploitation of biomass from agricultural lands and unscientific cultivation of HYV rice through groundwater irrigation. The process has been aggravated by irregular rainfall; and insignificant water flow in the adjacent rivers that normally play a vital role in replenishing soil fertility and recharging groundwater.

Degradation of soil quality in the floodplains is mainly attributed to improper use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to boost agricultural production. Siltation in the floodplains also contributes towards degradation of land due to flashflood and sediments accumulated from riverbank erosion. Dispersed industrial growth and uncontrolled discharges of their untreated effluent in the nearby rivers deteriorate the quality of land and soil.

According to M.K. Hassan and A.K. M. Ashraful Alam (JARD, 2006), the average organic matter content of top soils in Bangladesh (high land and medium high land situation) have gone under from about 2% to 1% over the last 20 years due to intensive cultivation which means and decline by 20-46% ( Miah et al., 1993). Removal of nutrients is also a threat to the agriculture. The negative soil nutrient balance have found in the country and the net removal of major nutrients (N, P, K, S) are as high as ranges between 180 and 250 kg/ha/yr. (Karim et al., 1994).

Comprehensive studies are lacking on the issue of land degradation in Bangladesh. The country needs further research and studies to precisely delimit the areas affected by, or vulnerable to land degradation. There are inadequate statistics on how much area is annually brought under shifting cultivation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Statistics on loss of forestlands in Madhupur, Barind and Piedmont plains for agriculture, and other uses are also insufficient. There are few studies on the wastelands created by abandoned brick fields, and associated abandoned roads, but a good amount of land once regarded as good agricultural land has now turned unproductive. Statistics on irrigated area and uses of different pesticides are available, but studies on the extent of land degradation are lacking. The information is insufficient to make a comprehensive nationwide assessment on land degradation. However, a number of case studies are available, which do give an idea of the condition of land and the state of land degradation. A few of these examples are described below.

There are two main barriers to SLM in the country include i) High population pressure on land and the ii) Absence of a revised national land use policy which properly mainstream SLM practices in production landscapes.

A.1.2 The baseline scenario and associated projects
The Government of Bangladesh has developed recently key national development policies which place environment protection in general and fighting land degradation in particular as key pillars. These policies documents include, Bangladesh vision 2021 in its goal 7: to be environmentally sustainable; 6th Five Year Plan (FY2011 - FY2015): Strategy 7.11: Environment Sustainability and National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS , May 2013). Prior to these strategic documents, the country is implementing some project which are important baseline for this project.

These include:
- Barind Rainwater Conservation and irrigation Project (phase – II) Barind Rainwater Conservation and irrigation Project (phase – II). Water resources mobilisation to mitigate drought. This project provides mean of lesson learning in addressing land degradation with the water resources mobilisation point of view.

- Community Based Adaptation in the Ecologically Critical Areas through Biodiversity Conservation and Social Protection Project. Addressing land degradation through adoption of GEF-5 PIF Template-February 2013 6 some SLM technologies. The project will be important for the current GEF MSP as it will provide opportunity during the land degradation and land use profile of the country, to understand the role and impacts of activities conducted by the project in fighting land degradation.

- Enhancing Food Security through improved crop water management practices in the Southern Coastal areas of Bangladesh. One of the key issues related to land degradation in the country is the decrease soil fertility and consequent decrease of food production. This initiative will be important for the project in addressing soil fertility issue in the framework of land degradation and related policies review and capacity building activities to be developed and implemented.

A.1.3 The proposed alternative scenario, components of the project and expected outcomes
According the Bangladesh Six Five Year Plan (2011 – 2015), the main goal of the government’s land use policy and management is to ensure best possible use of land resources and delivery of land related services to the people through modernized and efficient land administration for sustainable development with accelerated poverty reduction. Ministry of Land has already undertaken projects to conduct digital surveys and introduce e-governance. Land records will be computerized and land mutation will be made automatic. The Government intends to modify and simplify all land-related laws, which is expected to remove many of the land related disputes. Planned use of land according to Land Zoning Maps prepared on the basis of present and potential land uses will be ensured through enforcement of the provisions of relevant laws. Furthermore, the recently approved National Sustainable Development Strategy (May 2013), recognize the acceleration of land zoning process including formulation of necessary laws and acts as the top strategic priority in area of land degradation. The strategy also, recognized the need to motivate farmers to use recommended/balanced doses of chemical fertilizers, extensive production and use of organic fertilizer, and proper utilization of soil guide and soil testing facilities to enhance soil fertility. The present project is therefore a contribution toward these national targets. The project objective to establish knowledge base and enabling policy and institutional environment for SLM consideration in the country development agenda. The project will achieve this objective through the following components and outputs.

Component 1: Land use and land degradation profile.
Through this component, the project will support the national stakeholders to have adequate information and data for good decision making. Outcome 1: Increased understanding of land use and land degradation in the country 2.1.National land use map developed
2.2.Land Degradation profile established
2.3.National roadmap to address SLM developed and validated at national level

Component 2: SLM mainstreaming.
The project will support policy review to address the challenges related to land use identified in component 1, the stakeholders will be capacitated to consider SLM in productions sectors.

Outcome 1: Capable national institution and stakeholders in favor SLM practices
2.1.National policy including (Including Land Use Policy 2001) and institutional framework to mainstream SLM in production sectors (in line with output 1.3 implementation), revised
2.2.SLM practices developed and disseminated by relevant stakeholders and networks at national level
2.3.Training and awareness raising programmes for SLM adoption and dissemination developed and implemented at national and local levels

Component 3: SLM monitoring.
The long term sustainability of project outcome will be through the monitoring and evaluation of the policies and SLM mainstreaming impacts. Outcome 3: Adequate SLM monitoring and evaluation GEF-5 PIF Template-February 2013 7 2.1.DLDD monitoring indicators developed and a monitoring and evaluation system of SLM impacts established
2.2.Project M&E

A.1.4 Incremental cost reasoning and expected contributions from the baseline, the GEFTF, LDCF/SCCF and Co-financing
Without GEF: According to the Bangladesh: State of the Environment (2001) a comprehensive study at the country level on land degradation, covering all its aspects ranging from the physical to economic, is absent. However, it is clear that the quality of land has deteriorated, and its impacts are visible. Over the last decade, crop yield has declined due to deterioration of physical and chemical properties of land and soil. It would be useful to establish a baseline survey on which future monitoring and assessment of further deterioration or improvement could be based. The country has a number of policies to deal with land degradation, but with limited implementation. The existing policies must be implemented, and a number of new activities should be undertaken in the immediate future to address land degradation. Research and its extension to practice are the most important steps that should start without delay.

The GEF alternative: The GEF support through this project will help the country to bridge the gaps of conducting the baseline study to understand the land use and land degradation at the national level. The baseline study will help to develop the land use map, the land degradation profile and key recommendations which will lead to policy and institutional review and the capacity and awareness raising programmes for the national stakeholders.