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Policy and regulatory framework for Participatory Water Management[edit | edit source]

BGP combines a substantial investment in water infrastructure with a strong focus on the establishment of Participatory Water Management (PWM). Given this distinguishing feature of the program – a feature which it shares with several other donor-funded water sector projects – this section provides an overview of the policy, legal and regulatory provisions, which establish the bandwidth within which PWM can be implemented.

While communities in Bangladesh, as elsewhere, have always taken initiatives towards managing water resources for their own benefit, Participatory Water Management – i.e. an explicit approach by Government whereby water management actions by water users organised on a scheme or catchment basis, or on the basis of sub-units thereof – complements or replaces centrally organised water management actions – is relatively new. Farmer groups for water management were notably formed for irrigation management purposes in the 1960s and 1970s; both for pump irrigation and in major irrigation schemes. Participatory Water Management, however, only became a Government policy applicable for all water management in flood control, drainage and irrigation schemes by the end of the 20th century. The 1999 National Water Policy sounded the starter’s gun for promulgating legal provisions for PWM: several guidelines, regulations and acts that – taken together – provide the regulatory framework for Participatory Water Management.

The table provides an overview of the prevailing policy, legislation and regulation for PWM. Short discussions of each element are available through hyperlinks and/or attachments. After the overview, this concludes with a section that zooms-out again to reflect on today’s context for Participatory Water Management.

Table 1: Overview of policy and regulatory framework
Title Formal publication / approval Status
National Water Policy January 30, 1999 Policy
Guidelines for Participatory Water Management November 28, 2000 Guidelines
Bangladesh Water Development Board Act July 11, 2000 Act
National Water Management Plan March 31, 2004 Plan
BWDB Participatory Water Management Rules February 11, 2014 Rules under the BWDB Act 2000
Bangladesh Water Act May 2, 2014 Act
Water Rules and related Guidelines August 15, 2018, guidelines published in 2019 Rules under the Bangladesh Water Act 2014
Bangladesh Delta Plan September 2018 Plan

In addition to the above documents that shape present-day Participatory Water Management, several other policies influence water management practices. We mention here the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan 2009 – 2018, the Women in Development Policy and the BWDB Gender Equity Strategy 2006

Previous history[edit | edit source]

Water resources management in Bangladesh faces immense challenges in order to resolve diverse problems and issues. The most critical of these are floods in the wet season and the scarcity of water in the dry season; the expanding water needs of a growing economy and population; the supply of safe drinking water and sanitation; arsenic problem; water pollution and massive river sedimentation and riverbank erosion. Furthermore, there is a growing need for maintaining the eco-systems, particularly the fish resources and wetlands and there is the issue of competitive demand of various water uses. The water management is increasingly facing challenges of exogenous developments of a global nature, such as climate change and sea level rise, as well as of upstream river basin developments in neighbouring countries. Climate changes will influence both food security and water availability in the following ways: extreme weather events will lead to more cyclones and floods with consequent drainage congestion and water logging; salinity and salt water intrusion; higher glacial melt leading to higher river discharge, river and soil erosion; more droughts leading to increased irrigation demands.

Based on the above, the goals and objectives for the development and utilization of water resources in Bangladesh may, in short, be stated as follows:

Goals[edit | edit source]

  • Make efficient use of water resources to optimise the growth of agriculture, including fisheries, forestry and livestock.
  • Provide navigational facilities for the growth of commerce, industry and transportation.
  • Prevent land, water and environmental degradation.
  • Accommodate land reclamation and accretion.
  • Minimize the adverse effect of flood and drought on rural and urban communities.
  • Adaptation to climate change

Objectives[edit | edit source]

  • Irrigation objectives, including major surface water irrigation and minor irrigation to meet agricultural demand.
  • Flood management objectives, including climate change resilience and adaptation through the protection of critical urban and rural areas and control of land erosion from river actions
  • Energy and power generation objectives, specifying the use of dams and other control structures.
  • Navigation objectives, specifying the use of water for inland navigation.
  • Land reclamation and accretion objectives, specifying the use of reclaimed land.
  • Poverty alleviation objectives.

The erstwhile East Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (EPWAPDA), an autonomous organisation, was created in 1959 to fulfil some of these goals and objectives, as a consequence of the United Nations’ funded Krug Mission under the East Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority Ordinance of 1959 (EP order No.1 of 1959). The mission concluded that water resources development would be essential to the increase of agricultural production. It therefore recommended the creation of coastal polders to protect the rice crops from tidal floods and salinity. Consequently, the Coastal Embankment Project constructed 37 polders in the period 1960-1972, with a view to cultivating High Yielding Varieties (HYV) of rice. Simultaneous the EPWAPDA Master plan focussing on flood control and drainage was prepared in 1964. Activities created under the Master plan yielded immediate results. However, after a few years, an evaluation showed that the increase in agricultural production was not up to the required level. The present Bangladesh Water Development Board was established in 1972 under presidential order no. 59 of 1972, when the former EPWAPDA was split into two organisations: BWDB dealing with water and PDB dealing with power. BWDB is a body corporate under the administrative control of the Ministry of Water Resources.

A mission funded by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) in 1972 recommended a strategy for the implementation of small, low cost quick generation Flood Control and Drainage (FCD) and Flood Control, Drainage and Irrigation (FCDI) projects.

In 1974, another devastating flood occurred. This generated a renewed interest in the area of flood control and prevention. A policy was adopted for the quick implementation of flood control and drainage improvement projects. The Early Implementation Project was the first project implemented in line with this new established policy. Thereafter many other projects followed as can be seen below in Section 5.2.2 Table 1, with brief descriptions.

Review of Water Resources Projects in the Coastal Zone[edit | edit source]

This sub-section lists of the 21 projects which have contributed to water resources development in the coastal zone over the last 45 years. Summaries of these projects can be found by following the hyperlinks. Of note is the considerable influence of the Government of the Netherlands (GoN) – which has been the main or co-funder of 14 of the 21 projects.

Table 2: Overview of water resources management projects
No. Name of the Project Implementation period Donor
1 Early Implementation Project (EIP) 1975-1997 GoN
2 Delta Development Project (DDP) 1976-1988 GoN
3 Land Reclamation Project (LRP) 1977-1991 GoN
4 Second Small Scale Flood Control Drainage and Irrigation Project (SSSFCDI) 1988-1994 WB & CIDA
5 Systems Rehabilitation Project (SRP) 1990-1997 WB
6 Flood Action Plan (FAP) 1990-1995 multiple incl GoN
7 Compartmentalization Pilot Project (CPP)-FAP-20 1991-2000 GoN & KfW
8 Khulna Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project (KJDRP) 1993-2002 ADB
9 Char Development and Settlement Project (CDSP)
9a Char Development and Settlement Project (CDSP I) 1994-1999 GoN
9b Char Development and Settlement Project (CDSP II) 2000-2005 GoN
9c Char Development and Settlement Project (CDSP III) 2005-2011 GoN
9d Char Development and Settlement Project (CDSP IV) 2011-2018 GoN & IFAD
9e Char Development and Settlement Project Bridging (CDSP- B) 2019-2022 GoN & IFAD
10 Small Scale Water Resources Development Sector projects
10a Small Scale Water Resources Development Sector Project 1996-2002 ADB & GoN
10b Second Small Scale Water Resources Development Sector Project (SSWRDSP) 2002-2009 ADB & GoN
10c Participatory Small-Scale Water Resources Sector Project 2010-2019 ADB & GoN
11 Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) - Assistance to the Program Development Office of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Program (PDO-ICZM) 2002-2006 GoN
12 Integrated Planning for Sustainable Water Management (IPSWAM) 2003-2011 GoN
13 South-west Area Integrated Water Resources Planning and Management Project
13a Southwest Area Integrated Water Resources Planning and Management Project (SAIWRPMP) 2006- 2015 ADB & GoN
13b Southwest Area Integrated Water Resources Planning and Management Project - Additional Financing (SAIWRPMP -AF) 2015-2022 ADB & GoN
14 Estuary Development Program (EDP) 2007-2011 GoN
15 Small Scale Water Resources Development Project (SSWRDP) 2007-2014 JBIC
16 Water Management Improvement Project (WMIP) 2008-2015 WB
17 Coastal Embankment Improvement Project Phase 1 (CEIP) 2013-2020 WB
18 Blue Gold Program 2013-2020 GoN
19 Bangladesh Delta Plan
19a Preparation Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (BDP 2100) 2014-2017 GoN
19b Support to the Implementation of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (SIBDP 2100) 2018-2022 GoN
20 Irrigation Management Improvement project (IMIP) 2015-2020 ADB
21 Smallholder Agricultural Competitiveness Project (SACP) 2019-2025 IFAD

Project definition[edit | edit source]

The Blue Gold Program has been defined on the basis of accumulated insights on how best to pursue Participatory Water Management. In the course of its implementation, it has itself become an arena for refining the approach for Participatory Water Management.

The project definition is reflected in various project documents and in the updates and interpretations thereof.

  • The ‘mother-document’ is the program document[1], which was prepared under assignment by EKN. The design builds on lessons learnt from the IPSWAM project, and took the prospect of improving agriculture along with water management interventions into consideration. Development of market linkages and the promotion of innovation were added to the project design as well. During project implementation, changes of the project design were made by the development partners, generally on the basis of proposals made by the Annual Review Missions;
  • Development Project Proformae (DPP) are the official formats for project planning and budget allocation used in GoB. When approved, allocations against the Project can be made into the departmental annual work plans and budgets (Annual Development Programs). For a department to receive allocations it must have its own DPP. Therefore, both DAE and BWDB have a DPP for the Blue Gold Program. Both DPPs were revised once during project implementation, in keeping with Government procedures;
  • Memoranda of Agreement have been signed between BWDB on the one hand and DLS and DoF on the other. Their relatively minor BGP-related activities did not warrant the formulation of separate DPPs and expenditures were assumed and disbursed directly through the budget of the technical assistance hired by EKN, within the framework of the Memoranda of Agreement;
  • A TA Contract, with supporting documents, provides the initial activity definition for the technical assistance team commissioned by EKN to support implementation of BGP. A TA team was engaged to provide the bulk of the implementation capacity for the polder-level activities, as well as for coordination thereof. The technical assistance team’s terms have subsequently been specified, elaborated upon and revised. Changes were formalised through the TA annual workplan and budgets; with major revisions being supported by separate documents, such as the Inception Report, the Exit Strategy and the Theory of Change Report.

This chapter describes how the Blue Gold Program has been defined in the various documents pertaining to the different partners involved in implementation. It subsequently traces how the underlying concept of Participatory Water Management developed throughout the project implementation.

Project design[edit | edit source]

BWDB development project proforma[edit | edit source]

DAE development project proforma[edit | edit source]

DLS and DoF Memoranda of Agreement[edit | edit source]

Technical Assistance work plans[edit | edit source]

The TA team’s role and responsibility is defined in the contract signed between the lead partner of the consortium selected to provide TA services (‘the consultant’) on the one hand and the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands (‘the client’) on the other. The contract makes reference to the tender documents (including the programme design document) and the technical proposal submitted by the TA consortium for responsibilities, outcomes, outputs and activities.

Eight months into the implementation period of the Project, a final Inception Report was submitted, elaborating the work plan and budget for the TA team. The acceptance of this confirmed the proposals of the Consultant with respect to team organisation, the tasks to be implemented and their overall timeline. The Inception Report forms the basis for the subsequent annual work plans and budgets of the TA.

In the course of 2015, it gradually became clear that BGP would be hard-pressed to achieve its ambitions. The acceptance by the development partners of the Annual Review Mission proposal to enhance funding by € xx million and to extend the Project’s timeframe by xx months provided relief, but did not alleviate concerns over (i) optimal and effective water use for productive sectors by fine-tuning water infrastructure inside the polders through the WMG and WMA[Notes 1]; (ii) close coordination of WMG, WMA and project activities with local administrations at Union, Upazila and District levels[2]; and (iii) the synergy between the components comprising BGP[Notes 2]. It became clear that the project definition had to be re-thought and over the course of 2015 into 2016 the TA team undertook exercises to achieve just that:

  • Production of a sourcebook on engaging Local Government Institutions in water management, which inter alia reiterated the need to interact with LGIs from the start of engagement in a polder and further proposes to forge a ‘water management partnership’ of which the cooperation between WMOs and Union Parishads forms the core[3];
  • Prompted by the 2015 Annual Review Mission, preparation of an Exit Strategy for the project support from the polder areas, which inter alia pursues explicit, time-bound and staggered action planning per polder; formulation of a unified approach (single work process) integrating the BGP components; greater coherence between agricultural activities, business development and internal polder water management; greater focus on promotion of collective actions; a renewed focus on contributing to the national enabling environment for participatory water management; and, finally reorganisation of the TA team[4]. The ARM argued for using the capacity of WMGs for self-evolvement, which inspired the TA’s thinking about functional WMGs;
  • In a parallel exercise engaging all project partners, the Theory of Change underpinning the Program definition was examined and re-framed. This provided a greater understanding of why and how water management and agricultural & marketing support must interlink for greater productivity and profitability, and thereby for improving livelihoods in the polder. It also helped restructure the TA team for decentralised implementation and integration of activities[5].

The changes and specifications proposed by the above exercises were formalised through the annual work plans and budgets for the TA.

Evolution of the BGP concept[edit | edit source]

The project definition, as discussed in the above sections, is the description of the programme in the planning and budget documents that formally apply to each of the project parties. Underneath those formal expressions of the programme, there is a more philosophical notion of what the programme is to achieve and how it is to achieve this. This is known as the ‘project concept’. This concept is captured by the BGP tagline ‘Water Management for Development’ and has, while retaining the spirit of the tagline, developed over time. Table 3 shows a timeline of this process.

Table 3: Timeline of the evolution of the project concept of BGP
Phase Main thrust Documents
Formulation 2011 – 2012 WMO to be developed as cooperatives acting as main driver for economic development Programme Document
IPSWAM plus’

2013 – 2015

Start of the implementation period, in which infrastructural works and the formal establishment of WMOs (and their re-establishment under 2014 rules) were undertaken along the lines of the precursor IPSWAM-project; in parallel to implementation of novel project components for agricultural development and business development.
  • Inception Report
  • Rules for Participatory Water Management 2014

2015 – 2017

A reconsideration of the approach, enhancing the synergy between water management organisation, agricultural development and business development:

· From developing organisations to developing institutional networks

· From parallel components to an integrated approach

· From central control to decentral initiative

· From multi-purpose cooperatives to functional water management organisations supporting multiple initiatives for economic development

  • LGI Sourcebook
  • Theory of Change
  • Exit Strategy
  • Unified Approach
  • ARM reports

2017 – 2019

Rapid emergence and consolidation of new approaches for in polder water management, for agricultural development, for extension and dissemination, for targeting, and for capacity building.
  • Internal strategy documents on Catchment planning (subsequent versions)
  • Technical reports 19 and 24 on Community Agricultural Water Management
  • Internal concept notes on horizontal learning, extension methodologies and targeting;
  • BGP’s ‘Lessons Learnt’ repository

2019 – 2020

Establishment and activation of WMAs and support to their functionality. WMAs in the driver seat for activities aimed at individual WMGs. Lessons learnt formulated with the aim to inspire improvement of national water governance environment and to support formulation of future programmes and projects.
  • Catchment Plans
  • WMA work plans
  • O&M agreement
  • National Conference

While in the process of operationalisation of the policy into guidelines and rules, the concept of PWM was narrowed-down[Notes 3]; an opposite tendency can be observed in the trajectory from planning to completion of BGP. The experience in BGP shows how, beginning with the project formulation, the PWM concept took on a wider meaning. This is elaborated in section chapter 18 in four developments:

  • Gearing water management towards enabling development of commercial agriculture;
  • Making water management the core function of the WMOs;
  • Supporting WMOs to place their core function in the context of a mandate for local economic development
  • Forming water management organisations along hydrological boundaries (rather than along community boundaries)

The above developments in the application of the Participatory Water Management Rules have culminated in more comprehensive visions on how water resources infrastructure investment,

organisation and cooperation, and opportunities for commercial agriculture can act together for attaining local economic development objectives. An important milestone in capturing this growing understanding of the development pathways of BGP was the preparation and subsequent publication of a BGP on its ‘theory of change’ in 2016[5].

Figure 1: BGP Theory of Change – summary results chain (2016 version)

The 2016 Theory of Change (ToC) describes five main development pathways that comprise the BGP intervention. Within these five pathways, a total of 39 causal relationships are described, which link the actions of the Project, through a chain of effects and impacts to its intended development outcomes. Figure 1 presents a summary visualisation of the development pathways. The BGP activities are represented by the two boxes (water management support and agriculture & marketing support) within the dotted line. The five development pathways are:

  • Pathway 1: From Water Management Support to Environmental Sustainability
  • Pathway 2: From Water Management Support to Agricultural & Economic Development
  • Pathway 3: From Agriculture & Marketing Support to Environmental Sustainability
  • Pathway 4: From Agriculture & Marketing Support to Agricultural & Economic Development
  • Pathway 5: From Environmental Sustainability and Agricultural & Economic Development to Improved Livelihoods

The 2016 Theory of Change is used as a point of reference in the BGP framework for monitoring and evaluation of results and outcomes (see section B).

Towards the close of BGP, the Theory of Change was amended, in order to better reflect the importance of in-polder water management for generating development outcomes through participatory water management. This ToC was is postulated in order to inform and inspire future programmes and policies with respect to Participatory Water Management. It is presented in the following section.

The PWM Theory of Change postulated by BGP[edit | edit source]

Without suggesting that this is the final word on Participatory Water Management but strictly as consideration for the development of future project interventions and regulatory modifications, the following figure, along with the supporting text, describes BGP’s conceptual understanding of PWM.

Participatory Water Management – The BGP Theory of Change (2019 version)

The figure reads from bottom to top and shows the conceptual steps BGP takes to achieve its objectives: agriculture-based growth in the polders – made tangible by enhanced incomes and employment – and contributions to overall economic development and poverty reduction.

The grey shape at the bottom of the figure shows that BGP works on Participatory Water Management. Bangladesh’ Guidelines for Participatory Water Management – a government document issued in 2000 – makes a distinction between ‘participation as consultation in decision-making’ and ‘participation as self-management of specific activities’. While inhabitants of the 22 polders in which BGP intervenes have at the end of the BGP intervention indeed a greater say in decisions on water resources, their consultation in decisions on investments made in major water resources infrastructure has been limited for the simple reason that the project plan and budget were defined before engagement with stakeholders in the polder started.

The second aspect of Participatory Water Management – water management by local stakeholders – is the real thrust of BGP. The project focuses on ‘in-polder water management’ – bringing benefits of water management to most corners of the polders. Increased agricultural returns provide a reason for stakeholders to assume operation and maintenance responsibilities and contribute to its cost.

To promote in-polder water management, BGP intervenes in three realms: development of infrastructure, institutional development and agricultural development.

  • Infrastructure development initially focussed on rehabilitation works on embankments, sluices and main drainage channels. With time, BGP promoted the utilisation and improvement of water management infrastructure to provide better conditions for agricultural production and sometimes fisheries: Khals were cleaned, illegal obstructions removed and communities were helped to invest in new small-scale infrastructure to further optimise conditions for profitable agriculture;
  • Institutional development kicked-off with the establishment of many Water Management Groups throughout the polder, which in turn established one (and sometimes more) Water Management Associations per polder. The initial focus on establishing water management organisations was replaced by real development of institutional networks. This means that attention was given to the relations of WMOs with departments, local governments, other community-based organisations and the private sector. By promoting partnerships for water management, WMGs and WMAs achieve much more than they would in isolation;
  • BGP invested in agricultural development by dissemination of knowledge on field crop production, by support to diversified homestead production and by supporting market linkages. Extension was used to firstly explain how improved water management could support a more desirable cropping pattern, and subsequently – once infrastructure and better water management were in place – to realise higher productivity and profitability. Actions included farmers’ field schools, a cropping intensification initiative (CII), and a large number of horizontal learning activities for field crop and homestead production. Collective activities for e.g. input supply and joint sale of products demonstrated in a very immediate way the benefits of working together.

Some of BGPs activities belong in one of the three ‘specialised’ boxes, but increasingly infrastructure, institutions and agriculture worked in unison. This is for instance the case for community-led agricultural water management, in which DAE demonstrates the potential of readjusting the year-round cropping cycle in favour of high value crop cultivation in winter; in which water management groups search their members’ commitment to crop synchronisation and early drainage during the monsoon season; and in which drainage networks are improved upon.

While this is a quite local activity, WMAs and WMGs increasingly take in-polder water management in hand for each of the large sluice catchments that comprise a polder. They decide on the operation of the sluice, search to optimise water levels for all farmers dependent on the main khal and invest in works to improve performance. Often, they cooperate with the area’s Local Government Institutions to achieve their ambitions, with especially Union Parishads contributing financially to small-scale infrastructure such as culverts.

The in-polder water management activities have a direct bearing on agriculture-based growth in the polder. The changes in cropping pattern have resulted in higher paddy production due to newer varieties; and to an expansion of the area under high value crops such as watermelon and sunflower. Better in-polder water management comprising and combining elements of improved water management infrastructure; development of water management partnerships; and an outlook towards commercial opportunities, does lead to higher incomes (for those who benefit directly from the land they operate) and better employment opportunities (for those relying on the provision of labour to make an income). Increased farmers’ incomes also enhance non-farm economic development in the polders.

Local economic development, which is based in collaborative actions by community-based water management organisations, technical departments, local governments and local businesses tends to be responsible development. When communities, leaders and experts work together there is a tendency – or maybe better-put: an opportunity – to take into account how actions affect long-term sustainability and how outcomes contribute to livelihood of different classes of people. The majority of beneficiaries from BGP are smallholder farmers or landless farmers – making it a poverty-targeted project at its core. BGP targeted both poor men and women with support to homestead production and by their engagement as local labour in construction works. Women were supported to take part in the decision-making in WMGs and were supported by specific activities to enhance their empowerment. ‘In-polder water management’ contributes to inclusiveness; for instance, by reversing the trend of smallholders leasing-out their land to large fish producers due to waterlogging or by removal of illegal obstructions (benefiting few well-off persons) from drainage channels that serve a large number of smallholder producers.

Through the approach presented above, BGP makes its modest contribution to national goals of economic development and poverty reduction, and it does so with a focus on areas in the coastal zone that are hardly touched by other developments.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Program for Integrated Sustainable Economic Development by improving the Water and Productive Sectors in selected Polders, Program Document (PDF). GoB, GoN, BLUE GOLD. August 2012.
  2. Ibid. p. 36.
  3. Engaging Local Government Institutions in Water Management – DRAFT Sourcebook (PDF). Euroconsult Mott MacDonald & Associates. February 2015.
  4. Sustainability from The Start - Exit Strategy (draft final), Working Paper 2A (PDF). Euroconsult Mott MacDonald & Associates. February 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Theory of Change (version 2), Working Paper 5 (PDF). Euroconsult Mott MacDonald & Associates. May 2016.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Described in the Programme Document page 39.
  2. The Programme Document describes three components, but at inception the TA-team organisation was further split-up into five components with little or no arrangements for their coordination
  3. In the trajectory from the 2001 Guidelines for Participatory Water Management to the 2014 BWDB Participatory Water Management Rules the ambition vis-à-vis consultation has been toned down and a great deal of flexibility in the constitution of Water Management Organisations was removed.

See also[edit | edit source]

Section A: Background and context
Chapter 01: Overview, Purpose and Structure of Report Chapter 02: Institutional Setting Chapter 03: Social, Physical and Environmental Context
  1. Overview
  2. Water management for development
  3. Purpose of the Report
  4. Structure of this report
  1. Executive Authorities
  2. Implementing Agencies
  3. Other public sector organisations
  4. Private Sector
  1. Geography of the coastal zone
  2. History of polders
  3. Social context
  4. Polder infrastructure
Chapter 04: Policy framework, history of interventions and project definition
  1. Policy and regulatory framework for Participatory Water Management
  2. History of interventions
  3. Project definition
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