§ Mr. Gerald Bowden
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultations Her Majesty's Government have undertaken on the problem of flooding in Bangladesh; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mrs. Chalker
The Government hosted an international conference at Lancaster house on 11–12 December at which the Bangladesh Government and all major bilateral and multilateral aid donors to the country were represented. The meeting was chaired by the World Bank.
The meeting endorsed an initial five-year flood action plan prepared for the Bangladesh Government by the World Bank. The plan recommends a staged approach to dealing with the flooding problem in Bangladesh, and emphasises the need to identify structures that are economically and technically viable and also socially and environmentally sound. The plan starts with a series of further detailed studies and pilot activities. Some of the studies would examine specific regions of the country which are affected by flooding to devise area specific solutions. The others would establish general guidelines for the conduct of the whole programme, and include pilot work on critical aspects such as river training, flood modelling and compartmentalisation.
One or more donors offered finance for each of the study and pilot activities recommended. The United Kingdom will take the lead in one of the regional studies (in the north-west), and three major supporting studies; and will participate in a number of other activities under the programme. The World Bank has agreed to co-ordinate this ambitious multi-country effort, and the flood action plan, which extends for an initial five years, 262W will be reviewed every two years and defined in more detail as the studies proceed. The cost of the studies and the initial works that they are expected to identify is tentatively estimated at some $650 million. On the basis of this initial work it will be possible to take informed decisions on a possible comprehensive programme of flood control and development, which would be a much longer-term objective.
I believe that the conference took a major step forward in initiating a programme which offers the hope of a major reduction and alleviation in the devastation which flooding can bring to Bangladesh. Her Majesty's Government and the other Governments and agencies represented intend to push the programme forward energetically. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for visiting the conference and discussing its work with participants.