14 Consultation and participation in planning

From Blue Gold Program Wiki

This section discusses early efforts by BGP to consult and involve communities in planning. It specifically reflects on the Polder Development Plans (PDP) and the WMG Action Plans (WAP).

Polder Development Plan[edit | edit source]

Briefing Materials
Ico sl-tb-cs.png
The following materials illustrate concepts, interventions, outcomes and lessons learnt, including through stories from community members.
Slide decks
Thematic brochures
Case studies
Figure 14.1: BGP Polder Development Approach at inception, based on IPSWARM 2008

In September 2008, BWDB approved the Guidelines for Integrated Planning for Sustainable Water Resources Management (IPSWARM) for use in existing medium-sized Flood Control and Drainage Projects[1]. The Blue Gold Program initially followed the 6-step approach described in these guidelines[2]. In this ‘polder development approach’ (see Figure 14.1) the formulation and finalisation of a Polder Development Plan plays a pivotal role.

Subsequently, Polder Development Plans (PDPs) were developed for each of the 22 polders that BGP intervened in. With hindsight, the value of these documents is limited:

  • The flowchart in Figure 14.1 suggests that PDPs were made with the WMOs and that they were defined to provide direction to subsequent implementation. In actuality, plans for rehabilitation of works and for Farmer Field Schools were defined in the Development Project Proforma of BWDB and DAE respectively, with a limited scope for adjustment. The water resources management plan announced in box 4 of Figure 14.1 did not cover management of water resources, but listed the proposed rehabilitation works.
  • The PDPs adhered to the component-wise organisational structure of the BGP TA team and were – at best – plans for TA team activities to be implemented in the polders. Within the PDP action plans for each component were included, with little or no synergy between them and sometimes even contradictory choices[Notes 1]. The insights gathered on cropping patterns and potential improvements therein were not used to inform choices on water management.
  • While the PDPs did offer a compilation of information about each of the polders – and thereby provided useful polder profiles – they have no value as planning documents and have consequently not been used as such. The ownership of the plans has been unclear from the beginning.

The PDP formulation and finalisation were largely internally-oriented exercises, with limited interaction with the intended beneficiary communities, their representatives and other stakeholder agencies at the local level. Making updates of the PDPs (box 6 in Figure 14.1) became redundant with the emergence of the Catchment Plans discussed later on.

The PDPs were completed as a contractual obligation, and had limited value for the polder development. The BGP TA team did however undertake planning activities in some of the polders, which showed an alternative approach to the overly internal oriented PDP exercise:

  • Land and Water Use workshops at polder level – With a view to understand cropping patterns and major water management challenges per polder and to identify options for crop diversification and water management improvement; one-day workshops were held with an increasingly wide participation. Whereas initially discussions were held between BGP TA and local DAE staff, at later events BWDB, LGIs, staff from other departments and selected WMG representatives participated. While the participation in such workshops was amplified; the focus was sensibly narrowed to cropping patterns and water management. This was a first step towards ‘in-polder water management’, which is discussed in chapter 17. The Land and Water Use workshops also served to enhance involvement of stakeholder agencies in BGP activities and to establish good relations between the program and local agencies; and to a lesser extent between beneficiary communities and local agencies.
  • Infrastructure consultation workshops – In order to set priorities for works implementation and to impress upon the beneficiaries that not all desired works could be undertaken, the TA engineers together with representatives from the concerned O&M Divisions conducted courtyard sessions. Here, maps were used to show locations of existing works and discussions were held on the relative priority of new works (especially khal re-excavation), vis-à-vis the limitations imposed by the Project’s resources. These workshops confirmed that it is possible – and well-appreciated – to inform beneficiaries beforehand of infrastructural works decided upon for their areas; as well to constructively consult beneficiary communities on choices with respect to major infrastructure.

Both exercises demonstrated the merit of using large maps visualising aspects of the polder for engendering constructive discussion on constraints and solutions.

WMG Action Plans[edit | edit source]

The PWMR 2014 lists among the responsibilities and functions of the WMG inter alia:

Plan for Annual ‘crops and other production’ and preparation of plan for operation and maintenance (O&M)[3]

This plan is referred to in BGP reports as the Water Management Group Action Plan, WMG Action Plan or WAP. As the WAPs are listed in the PWMR 2014, their production has been seen as a reporting obligation and WAPs have been prepared by the WMGs and subsequently submitted to the regional offices of OCWM.

The WMGs were advised and assisted to make plans that coincided to the four components of BGP; i.e. they were advised to include actions with respect to their organisation, to infrastructure, agricultural extension and back- and forward market linkages. A standard format for activity planning was provided, which included a list of some 30 suggested activities.

In the end, the WMG executive committees produced, with overly strong handholding by the BGP TA community organisers, virtually identical plans, largely copied from the standard list of over 30 actions. The WMG action planning was flawed:

  • The WAPs were seen as a means to ensure the continued registration of the WMGs with BWDB’s OCWM rather than as serious own action plans.
  • While the WAPs did contain some specification for the specific WMG (e.g. use of the proper name of local khals), the commitment to the actions can in many cases be doubted.
  • The strong adherence to the BGP components raised the expectation that BGP would take the initiative to support the listed actions. The action list was seen as a wish list, and there was no mechanism to prioritise any of the actions.
  • The TA community organisers – or community development facilitators as they were known at later stages of the BGP implementation period – did not guide a process of local planning and capacity development but helped WMGs meet the perceived criteria for a good plan.
  • No follow-up was given to the plans. WMGs were neither asked about the progress in WAP implementation nor prompted to undertake a periodic update (other than for renewing the registration).
  • The planning process was strongly focussed on action lists and did not dwell upon the purpose of the WMGs.

Despite the severely flawed process, WMGs did undertake actions:

  • Many continued to run the credit and savings operation that was an obligatory part of the organisations when the registration was with the Department of Cooperatives. Savings & Credit are used to extend loans at concessional rates to individual group members, and are thereby hardly relevant for water management. Some argue that the continuous loan operations keep the WMG active and thereby help to mobilise members in cases of a water-related emergency, such as embankment erosion. The outcome survey, however, argues that flaws in how a community runs the savings and credit operation (is it well-administered? Is it inclusive?) pose substantial risks to the continuity of the WMG[4].
  • A number of WMGs took the infrastructure-related actions seriously and made a start with sluice operation and khal cleaning; The re-excavation of a canal through community labour to reduce waterlogging by Dakhin-Paschim Kalibari WMG in polder 43/2F is a telling example. In many initiatives a supportive engagement of the Union Parishad is noted.
  • Within some WMGs – prompted possibly by the action planning and more likely by the BGP staff involved in business development – initiatives were undertaken for collective actions with respect to input supply.

From 2018 onwards, a link was made between plans at WMG level with respect to water management on the one hand; and the catchment plan on the other. This is discussed in chapter 17.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Guidelines for Integrated Planning for Sustainable Water Resources Management (IPSWARM). BWDB. September 2008.
  2. Blue Gold Program Inception Report (PDF). Euroconsult Mott MacDonald & Associates. November 2013.
  3. Participatory Water Management Rules (BWDB, unofficial translation). Government of Bangladesh. 2014.
  4. Improving the Productivity of Land in the Coastal Bangladesh: The Outcomes of Blue Gold Program Interventions, Technical Report 25 (PDF). Euroconsult Mott MacDonald & Associates. October 2018.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. In the polder 22 PDP, khal re-excavation is attributed second priority in the water resources management section, while the environmental section emphasises the benefits of re-excavation of khals for drainage improvement during monsoon and post monsoon periods as well as for storage of rain water.

See also[edit | edit source]

Previous chapter:
Chapter 13: Construction: Progress, Modalities and Lessons Learnt
Blue Gold Lessons Learnt Wiki
Section D: BGP Interventions: Participatory Water Management
Next chapter:
Chapter 15: WMO capacity building
Section D: BGP Interventions: Participatory Water Management
Chapter 14: Consultation and participation in planning Chapter 15: WMO capacity building Chapter 16: Women’s participation in water management
  1. Polder Development Plan
  2. WMG Action Plans
  1. From individual to group capacity
  2. From transferring knowledge to promoting behaviour change
  3. From dependence to self-reliance
  4. From autonomous WMGs to networked organisations
  1. Background
  2. Blue Gold approach
  3. Why is water management important for women?
  4. Why are women important for water management?
  5. Results
  6. Enabling factors and challenges
Chapter 17: In-polder water management Chapter 18: The Water Management Partnership Chapter 19: Operationalisation of the PWM concept
  1. Context
  2. Interventions: a mix to address all scales
  3. In-Polder Water Management as a step forward
  1. Trend 1: ‘Water management through business development’ or ‘business development through water management’
  2. Trend 2: Supporting functional water management organisations
  3. Trend 3: From O&M to Local Economic Development; from task to mandate
  4. Trend 4: Unit of organisation: from pre-defined to pragmatic
  5. Sustainability – a discussion
Chapter 20: Way Forward
Blue Gold Wiki
Executive summary: A Call for Action
Section A: Background and context Section B: Development Outcomes Section C: Water Infrastructure


Summary and Introduction


Section D: BGP Interventions: Participatory Water Management Section E: Agricultural Development Section F: Responsible Development: Inclusion and Sustainability




Section G: Project Management Section H: Innovation Fund Files and others