Transforming Vulnerability into Resilience through Livelihood Interventions for Project-Affected Persons

Project-affected persons who received assistance from the Livelihood and Income Restoration Program reported higher and diversified incomes. Photo credit: Project Management Unit, Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority.

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Regular consultations, monitoring, and follow-up measures can help successfully restore the income of project-affected persons.


Infrastructure projects often involve large-scale resettlement of affected populations. Involuntary resettlement may involve loss of livelihoods, productive assets, and incomes. In such cases, income restoration measures are required. Income restoration involves re-establishing income sources and livelihoods of affected persons to pre-project levels or higher.

The Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project of the Asian Development Bank has significantly impacted more than 600 project-affected persons.[1] Restoring the livelihoods[2] of relocated populations and ensuring improved quality of life involves a whole gamut of interventions, including vocational training, job placement assistance, initiatives to promote self-employment, linkages to micro-finance for sustainable economic activities, access to social protection programs, as well as continuous and meaningful consultations, counselling, and coaching, to address psychological and social needs.

Lessons from the design and implementation of the Livelihood and Income Restoration Program under the project are drawn upon to inform planning for resilient livelihoods in future projects financed by ADB and other development partners.

Project Snapshot

  • 22 October 2013 : Approval Date

  • $731.5 million: Total Funding :


The Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority has the primary role of ensuring sustainable water supply for the burgeoning population of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, covering 90% of this population within its current service area of 400 square kilometers (km2). The government agency plans to develop its service areas to 600 km2 by 2035, in anticipation of a population surge to nearly 29 million.

The strategic initiative of Government of Bangladesh and Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority required the development of an extensive water supply infrastructure with a total project cost of over $1 billion. The project will develop a water supply system to provide more reliable and improved security of water supply in Dhaka, by switching the water resource from ground water to surface water from the Meghna River. The project supports the development of a water intake, raw water transmission line, a water treatment plant with 500 million liters per day production capacity, treated water transmission line, and primary and secondary distribution lines.


The Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project entailed acquisition of 310.71 acres land, of which 183.15 acres involved private land acquisition. This significantly affected the lives of 3,148 persons, including households with and without land ownership. Of the total affected persons, 645, including 438 vulnerable,[3] were identified as those suffering significant economic impacts. The assessed economic impacts ranged from loss of privately owned agricultural land or businesses to loss of access to government-owned cultivable land, which was being accessed by non-titled affected persons for their livelihoods.


The Livelihood and Income Restoration Program was adopted as a safeguard measure for affected persons who were assessed to be vulnerable and/or face significant livelihood impact due to land acquisition under the project. As per the project’s entitlement matrix, such affected persons are entitled to skills training and cash assistance of BDT20,000 (about $180) to start income-generating activities. Vulnerable households and those who face significant economic impacts are entitled to micro-credit access to facilitate expansion of economic activity and ensure sustained support in the post-project implementation period.

An NGO, the Development Organization of the Rural Poor-DORP, was engaged to design and implement the plan. The Livelihood and Income Restoration Program followed this process:

  1. NGO designed the Livelihood and Income Restoration Program, with guidance from the Project Management Unit and Management Design and Supervision Consultants.
  2. NGO conducted needs assessment survey. Project-affected persons prioritized two skills training options and identified family members who will receive the training. NGO finalized the appropriate skill training option in discussion with the project-affected persons.
  3. NGO assessed the viability of the prioritized trades in the market.
  4. NGO’s Training Specialist designed interactive livelihood skill building training courses.
  5. Project Management Unit, with the support of Management Design and Supervision Consultants, reviewed and approved the proposed training courses.
  6. Government officials and NGO trainers conducted skills training based on the approved courses.
  7. Participants received certificates of completion of training and a one-time grant to start their income-generation activities, such as purchase of seeds, livestock, sewing machines, etc. As part of the skills training module, participants prepared a business plan.
  8. The project facilitated access to microfinance institutions by the participants in the Livelihood and Income Restoration Program.
  9. The Project Management Unit, with the support of the NGO, began the process of bi-monthly monitoring, counselling, and coaching the affected person/s or their family members based on starting date of the income-generating activity.
  10. NGO maintained a database on the Livelihood and Income Restoration Program and reported on progress and outcomes to the Project Management Unit of the Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project.

Support for affected persons under the Livelihood and Income Restoration Program also included post-training to ensure proper investment of Income-Generating Activity grants and vulnerability allowances for the vulnerable for income-generating activities, and assistance to facilitate access to microfinance institutions. They also received continued counselling, coaching, monitoring, and psychological and social support.

Gender and inclusion

From the project's inception, stakeholder engagement has played a central role in its implementation. In 2018, only 36% of the participants in community consultations were women. By 2023, this figure had risen to 61%, due to the efforts of the project management unit’s project consultants and the project NGO. Community meetings have served as the primary platform for engaging with the vulnerable, including women. During these meetings, the project team actively sought and valued the voices and perspectives of vulnerable, female, and non-titled persons on resettlement and livelihood restoration issues. Their contributions have been incorporated in the decision-making process.


Regular consultations, monitoring, and follow-up measures have ensured largely successful and resilient outcomes for the affected persons covered under the Livelihood and Income Restoration Program. During monitoring, setbacks were observed in a few cases, prompting the NGO to identify alternate support measures, such as training at the doorstep and facilitating linkages with the government’s social protection programs.

The Livelihood and Income Restoration Plan has strengthened the livelihoods of its beneficiaries. Photo credit: Project Management Unit, Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority.

As of November 2023, 89% of eligible project-affected persons trained under the project, including 35% female participants, are actively pursuing the income-generating activities. Among them, 42% have chosen to avail of microcredit facilities, while others have refrained due to various socio-cultural reasons, primarily hesitation to avail of loans. The project has also provided employment to skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled vulnerable affected persons, including women.

Case studies and consultations conducted by the external monitor indicated that project-affected persons who received assistance reported i) sustained higher and diversified incomes; ii) improved asset bases, including security of tenure for livelihood spaces; iii) better well-being; and iv) improved standing and voice within the community.

Regular monitoring enabled timely identification of corrective actions and appropriate solutions toward resilient and sustainable livelihood outcomes for the beneficiaries. The project achieved women’s participation targets in consultations pertaining to resettlement and livelihood restoration, as well as in project-related employment.

The project team is actively working towards on boarding all the training participants who are yet to start income-generating activities due to different reasons, primarily health and age-related issues, while others have been recently trained and are in the process of preparing their business plans. Post-training follow-up monitoring is in place to identify the specific support tailored to the needs of each project-affected person.

A few case studies provide insights into livelihood resilience building in the context of involuntary resettlement impacts of the project.[4]

RA was cultivating vegetables for sale on government land, from which she earned an income of BDT15,000 (about $136.73) during the pre-project scenario. She received tailoring training and purchased sewing machines with the one-time grant received. She started a tailoring school and earns BDT6,000 ($54.69) per month by training two batches of five students each. She also stitches clothes and earns an average of BDT15,000 per month. She also utilized part of her compensation amount to build a new house on land that she owns.

AU, a widow and head of household, lost 17.5 decimals (about 7,622.3 square feet) out of 36 decimals of land due to land acquisition. She received land compensation of BDT2 million (about $18,231.12), of which BDT1.5 million (about $13,673.34) she set aside for a fixed bank deposit. She received training on poultry farming and started her own business with the remaining compensation amount. She now has a monthly income of BDT37,000 ($337.38), primarily from the family pension, fixed deposit, and poultry farm. Her income has improved by 117.65%.

MD, a retired government official, lost 52 decimals (22,649.12 sq. ft.) of land due to land acquisition. He used his compensation amount of BDT4 million (about $36,462.24) to build a pucca (permanent) house with rooms for rent, opened a fixed deposit account, and started a poultry business, for which he also received training under the project. His income has increased by 112.5% from diversified sources.

FB is a project-affected older person living alone, who had no means of income and no family to support her. As she was not able to attend classroom training, the Project Management Unit and project NGO decided to orient her on duck and poultry rearing at her residence. They helped her start a duck and poultry rearing business with a one-time grant of BDT20,000. She now sells eggs and local country chicken. The project also facilitated access to additional financial support from a local civil society organization.


The Livelihood and Income Restoration Plan under the Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project yields several key lessons for the design of future livelihood restoration programs by ADB and its development partners.

Inclusive livelihood restoration plan can empower and enhance the socioeconomic conditions of women and vulnerable groups. Each affected household faces a unique set of impacts and social and economic consequences that requires customized strategies.

Training and cash compensation is inadequate to ensure sustainable livelihoods. A comprehensive support package is critical. Various assessments at household and local levels help design a meaningful and comprehensive support package. Market assessment (for employment opportunities, potential for sale of produce, and viability by type of business, etc.), coupled with livelihood needs assessment, business planning and coaching of households to build capacity to assess alternatives, is important.

Livelihood assistance for vulnerable affected persons could be designed to fit their individual conditions and needs. This includes assistance in micro-finance access and linkages based on absorption capacity, special training-at-home facilities for those unable to attend classroom training, as well as linkages to social protection programs. Regular follow-up support, counselling, and coaching help ensure sustainable outcomes. For non-titled project-affected persons, security of tenure for the income-generating activity location is critical.

Continuous and meaningful consultations help empower and improve participation of women and vulnerable groups. Dialogues influence their ability to raise concerns and seek support from the project proponents and the NGO. In the case of the Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project, the project NGO and its dedicated field-level teams gave vulnerable, non-titled affected persons the confidence to express their concerns freely and engage positively and frequently, to resolve any issues and concerns.

A robust database is the cornerstone of a robust Livelihood and Income Restoration Plan. In the water supply project, the NGO developed a web-based resettlement and livelihood database management system with the technical support of the Management Design and Supervision Consultant. Sustained engagement with affected persons and households and regular monitoring is important in the path to sustainable livelihoods. External monitoring also played a significant role in identifying critical actions to reach the affected persons who were not receiving envisaged benefits under the Livelihood and Income Restoration Plan.

Socio-cultural norms particular to each community need to be considered in the plan and entitlement matrix design. Although micro-credit access was facilitated for all beneficiaries under Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project, many eligible affected persons refrained from availing credit services, in view of religious norms.

Note: The insights presented in this article are based on discussions with and insights shared by the Project Management Unit, Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project (DESWSP), Ms. Ruksana Begum, Social Development and Gender Specialist, Management Design and Supervision Consultant, DESWSP; Dr. Rafeza Akter, Resettlement Expert (National), Management Design and Supervision Consultant, DESWSP; Ms. Sahana, Team Leader, DORP, Mr. Kali Sankar Ghosh, External Monitor, DESWSP, Ms. Rupa Banerjee Pravin, ADB Social Safeguards Consultant, Ms. Momoko Nitta Tada and Mr. Pushkar Srivastava, ADB Team Leaders, and Mr. Ricky Barba and Ms. Irina Novikova, ADB reviewers.

[1] The term "project-affected person" refers to an individual who might experience positive or negative impacts directly or indirectly because of a development project. This could include challenges in their living conditions, livelihoods, or access to resources because of the project.

[2] Livelihood is the combined means by which individuals and communities sustain their basic needs and well-being. It includes different sources of income, employment, and access to essential resources.

[3] The vulnerable are distinct groups of people who suffer disproportionately from resettlement impacts. In case of involuntary resettlement, the vulnerable require additional efforts including social protection measures to reduce the impacts of various risks and enhance resilience and attain sustainable livelihoods and incomes. In the project context, the vulnerable are defined as those below the poverty line, older persons (above 60 years of age), female-headed households, women and children, physically handicapped, indigenous people, tribes, minor races and ethnic sects, households with disabled persons, landless, transgender, and those without legal title.

[4] Based on field visits, consultations, and case studies compiled by Kali Sankar Ghosh, External Monitor, Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project, November 2023.


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A.S. Yeboah, T.Y. Baah-Ennumh, and M. Okumah. 2020. Understanding the Economic, Socio-Cultural, and Environmental Impacts of Resettlement Projects. African Geographical Review. 41 (1). pp. 7179.

H. Khatun. 2009. Displacement and Poverty: Measures for Restoring Meagre Livelihoods. Beyond Relocation: The Imperative of Sustainable Resettlement. pp.331–353.

J. Skinner. 2018. Gender Considerations in the Restoration of Livelihoods: Resettlement from Hydropower. International Institute for Environment and Development Briefing. July.

M. L. Cleto. 2023. Strengthening Livelihoods: Case Highlights from a Livelihood Support Program in the Ger Areas of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. ADB Briefs, No. 277.

S. Edington. 2014. The Inadequacy of the Risk Mitigation Model for the Restoration of Livelihoods of Displaced People. Case Study: The Cambodian Railway Rehabilitation Project. Journal of Arts and Humanities. 3 (8). pp.114–126.

Saswati Ghosh Belliappa
Senior Safeguards Specialist, Office of Safeguards, Asian Development Bank

Saswati Ghosh Belliappa joined ADB in 2017 as a safeguards specialist. An urban and regional planner by training, she specializes in social safeguards and social development.

Kazi Akhmila
Safeguards Officer (Resettlement), South Asia Department, Asian Development Bank

Kazi Akhmila has been with the Asian Development Bank since 2016. She holds master's degrees in Physics from Dhaka University and in Development and Human Rights from Swansea University.

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