World Water Day Bangladesh

World Water Day  Bangladesh

March 22 is the World Water Day. In February 1993, the UN General Assembly designated March 22 of each year as the World Day for Water and since then the World Water Day is being observed

The objective of the World Water Day 2013 is focussed to the theme of water cooperation. To achieve this, there is a focus on four strategic objectives:
1. Raise awareness on the importance, benefits and challenges of water cooperation;
2. Enhance knowledge and build capacity for water cooperation;
3. Adopt concrete and innovative action towards water cooperation;
4. Encourage partnerships and dialogue around water cooperation.
Where there is water, there is life, energy, well-being, a serene counter with nature. Water is a right to every one and water is the basis of everything. Without it human beings could not live and it is the duty of governments that water is available to everyone.

Children are the first victims of lack of water because they are the most vulnerable without it. Children are the future of the world and they should be able to get it. About 900 million people, mostly children have no access to clean safe water. In the world today, 6,000 children die each year from water-borne diseases, which makes unsafe water the greatest personal security threat in the poor countries.

Fresh Water:

Although water is the commonest stuff on earth, experts say that only 2.53 per cent of it is fresh, while the rest is salt- water ( sea water).

And of the fresh water, two thirds is locked up in glaciers and permanent snow cover. What is available is one-third of fresh water in lakes, rivers, aquifers (ground water) and rainfall.

The sources of fresh water are now coming increasingly under pressure from several directions. In future a day may come when we will think of the words of the poem The Rhime of the Ancient Mariner by the English poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834): ” Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink”.

Why fresh water will be scarce?

Population growth, (ii) pollution and (iii) climate change will combine to produce a drastic decline in water supply in the years ahead.

First, population is now about 7 billion in the world and in the next 25 years there will be 2 billion more people coming onto the earth and virtually all of that will go to developing countries. This is reality.

As population grows, demand for water grows. It has been reported that between 1970 and 1990, available per capita water supply decreased by one third. Demand comes not just from the need to drink, the need to wash, and the need to deal with human waste, the really great calls comes from industry in the industrialized world and from agriculture in the developing world.

Irrigating crops in hot dry countries reportedly accounts for 70% per cent of all the water use in the world. For example, it takes 1000 tons of water to grow one ton of wheat, 2000 tons to produce one ton of rice.

Second, pollution is another pressure point. Pollution comes from industry, agriculture and human generated wastes. About 2 million tons of wastes are dumped every day into rivers, lakes and streams, with one litre of waste- water sufficient to pollute about eight litres of fresh water.

A UN Report estimated that across the world there are about 12,000 cubic kilometers of waste- water, which is more than the total amount contained in the world’s 10 largest river basins at any given moment.

Therefore it suggests, if pollution keeps pace with population growth, the world will in effect lose 18,000 cubic kilometers by 2050-almost nine times the amount all countries will lose for use for irrigation.

Third, climate change will account for 20% per cent of the decline through erratic rainfall and a rise in the sea level. Climate change is also responsible for saline water creeping inside land and rivers.

Fourth, underground water is diminishing rapidly. It has been reported that across Asia, Africa and Latin America, ground water level are dropping as much as 3 metres a year.

In the coming decades the water supply situation will be worse, according to the UNESCO-sponsored World Water Development Report, published in March 2003. The 600-page Report indicates that by the middle of this century (2050), more than 7 billion people in 60 countries including Bangladesh are likely to face acute shortage of water.

Why is water security so important?

Water security can be defined as the ability to access sufficient quantities of safe water to provide food and electricity for people in a country.

Food production depends on availability of water. The interdependency of these two areas is evident. Therefore it requires sustainable use and conservation of water in agriculture with a particular focus on water policy formulation and the promotion of irrigated agriculture and efficient water use.

Energy production depends on the availability of water – e.g., the production of electricity at hydropower sites in which the kinetic energy of falling water is converted to electricity. Thermal power plants, in which fossil, nuclear and biomass fuels are used to heat water to steam to drive turbine-generators, require large quantities of water to cool their exhaust streams.

Bangladesh’s case:

According to a report of the UN Environment Programme, global warming would cause more than 40 glacial lakes to burst in the next few years. That mean the rivers which come from the Himalayas will have less snow-fed waters.

One of the characteristics of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna are that they are both snow-fed and rain-fed. That is why water remains in the rivers during the dry and wet seasons.

The South Indian Rivers, such as Krishna, Godavari and Narmada are only rain-fed and that is why water does not remain in the rivers during the dry season.

As the demand for water increases, share of water per person will decrease greatly. It is reported in media that 80 rivers are about to die out in Bangladesh, while 100 have lost their natural characteristics due to withdrawal of water in the upstream by structures, such as dams and barrages in India.

Furthermore underground water source will be gradually depleted as 69% per cent of Bangladesh’s water reportedly comes from below ground. For Dhaka city itself, it relies on underground water reserves. There are 1300 bore- holes tapping water below Dhaka and it is reported that in some areas the water table has fallen more than 40 metre.

Already media has been replete with news that acute shortage of fresh water in Dhaka city and around. With the increase of population in the coming years from 14 million to 30 million by 2020, it may become a big problem for the inhabitants of the capital city,

Bangladesh will need to increase its agricultural yield about 2% per cent per year to meet the needs of the population that will increase to 200 million by 2020.. To cope with the situation, Bangladesh must rely on surface water from rivers instead of withdrawal of ground water presently being practiced.

Trans-boundary rivers:

Since India controls major 54 trans-boundary rivers flowing through Bangladesh, it is of great urgency that Bangladesh and India may settle the problem.

Pursuant to the Joint Communique of 13th January 2010 of New Delhi following the meeting between the two Prime Ministers of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and Dr. Manmohan Singh, a new opportunity has opened on sharing of water of transboundary rivers.

It is reported that a 15-year interim accord on sharing waters of Teesta and Feni between India and Bangladesh would be signed. The two countries also discussed a working plan on the water sharing of the five other transboundary rivers: Dudhkumar, Manu, Dharala, Khowai, Gumti and Muhuri.

Management of water resources including flood warning and data are not accessible to Bangladesh and year after year, Bangladesh authorities have to guess to what extent the floods in monsoon season will submerge the territory of Bangladesh or cause drought in winter season.

It is noted that increased flow of waters in Bangladesh Rivers will be of great benefit to India as well. Under an agreement with Bangladesh, India has been given permission to transport its goods through river crafts to its seven eastern states that are landlocked.

The river routes, namely, Kolkata-Chandpur-Chilmari-Dubri and Kolkata- Chandpur-Bhairab Bazar-Zakiganj- Karimganj, are hardly being used by India because of lack of depth of water in the rivers.

Furthermore Chittagong and Mongla ports together with adequate channel -depth of Bangladesh rivers could be utilized by India, Nepal and Bhutan.

Regional Cooperation:

On this day, for Bangladesh, it is a time to examine, devise strategies to meet the challenge of water security in the country through cooperation with neighbouring countries.

Instances of regional cooperation on water management on shared river basins are plenty. For example, besides the Nile Initiative in 1999 among 10 countries for development of water resources from the common Nile Basin, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) established in 1995 with Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos and China and Myanmar as dialogue partners in 1996 has the mandate of cooperation in flood control, hydropower, irrigation and fisheries among others to optimise use for benefits of shared-basin countries.

MRC has approved procedures and guidelines effective monitoring of intra-Basin water use and diversion. In 2011 the Procedures for water quality was approved to establish a cooperative framework for the maintenance of acceptable/good water quality to promote sustainable development in the Mekong River Basin.

The Southern African Development Community consisting of 11 countries agreed in 1995 to ensure equitable sharing and conservation of water in the shared- river basin.

Given the above context, it is suggested that Basin-wise Commissions (one for the Ganges and the other for Brahmaputra basins) be constituted with all countries who share the basin as members, for water- sharing and water resources- management including flood control and irrigation for the benefit of the people of the region.

How to address the water shortage:

In many countries the following methods have been introduced as water conservation policy:

(a) collection of rain water
(b) use of recycled water
(c) de-salinisation of ocean waters
(d) conservation of ground water
(e) dredging of silted rivers
(f) introduction of crops that use less water

Fresh Water scarcity – Conflicts among states:

Since fresh water is distributed unevenly around the world, water issue could be a political “time bomb”. More than 260 of the world’s river basins are shared by at least two countries. These areas constitute 40% per cent of the world population.

As demand for fresh water increases conflict of interest will arises between upper and lower riparian countries. Some water experts say that water scarcity may lead to even armed conflicts in the next few decades.

Water has become the latest issue to stoke tensions between India and Pakistan. The crisis in the agricultural heartland of Pakistan relates to the Chenab, one of a series of waterways that bisect the Punjab. For centuries the Chenab has provided crucial irrigation in the heartland of Pakistan.

Pakistan raised objections when the Baglihar power project work on Chenab River started, and took the issue to the World Bank. The International Court of Arbitration, specifically has ruled that the design and operation of Indian hydropower projects on the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum cannot include more live storage than allowed under the IWT, even if the justification for such storage is silt management.

In a partial award announced in the Kishanganga dispute, the Hague-based Court of Arbitration allowed India on18th February 2013 to divert only a minimum flow of water from Neelum/Kishanganga River for 330MW hydro-electric project in the occupied Kashmir.

The increasing growth of population in Egypt and Ethiopia may give rise to conflict on the sharing of Nile waters between the two countries. Turkey and Syria may have water-related problems because Turkey controls the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, flowing through Syria and on to Iraq. Israel controls water supply of millions of Palestinian people in the occupied land and Palestinians do not get enough water for their daily use.


On World Water Day, March 22, every one should reflect on how to conserve fresh water supplies. Water is life. The expression is not a cliche.

The Geneva-based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), set up in 1990 through a mandate of the UN General Assembly, has criticized the international community for most serious failure in development of water policy in the last 50 years. It has suggested that a new approach is to be adopted to save water by bringing about changes in use and maintenance of water.

The main barrier to safe water is not a lack of resources but a lack of political will to address the issue head-on. Meanwhile, a robust awareness campaign must be made so that citizens of all countries may remember the old saying “Waste not, Want not, Save and be Safe” relates to fresh water.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

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