Bangladesh plans to build a series of dams to reclaim 600 square kilometres (230 square miles) of land from the sea over the next five years, officials said on Sunday.
The government has approved the ambitious project under which dams would be built in the Meghna estuary to connect islands and help deposit hundreds of millions of tonnes of sediment, project chief Hafizur Rahman said.
“The project would cost only 1.20 billion taka (18 million dollars). The dams will expedite sedimentations and manage the tidal system. They won’t allow loss of any sediments to the sea,” he said.
“The whole process will reclaim at least 600 square kilometres of new land from the sea in just five years.”
The mighty Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers join in Bangladesh before flowing into the Bay of the Bengal.
Studies have found that the two rivers carry more than one billion tonnes of sediment a year.
Rahman said the dams would be designed so that small islands would become linked with the mainland as shallow areas in the estuary fill up with sediment.
A study by the Dutch-funded Institute of Water Modelling (IWM) has found that the damming process would not affect other parts of the coastline or aggravate erosion of the country’s largest island, Bhola.
“We have done some water models of the project and found some 600 square kilometres of new land could be reclaimed without any side-effects,” IWM principal researcher Jahirul Haq Khan said.
The study has been verified by Dutch experts, he added.
Bangladesh reclaimed 1,000 square kilometres of new land in the Meghna estuary by building two dams in 1957 and 1964.
Despite the success, the reclamation process was halted due to lack of donor financing.
The impoverished country has been one of the worse victims of climate change, with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicting that 17 percent of its land would go under a rising sea by 2050.