World Water Day 2015 Bangladesh

World Water Day 2015  Bangladesh

March 22 was observed as 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

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.

Water and energy are closely interlinked and interdependent. Energy generation and transmission requires utilization of water resources, particularly for hydroelectric, nuclear, and thermal energy sources. Conversely, about 8% of the global energy generation is used for pumping, treating and transporting water to various consumers.

In 2015, the theme is “Water and Sustainable Development” which will bring attention to the need for new infrastructure to address water shortages resulting from such factors as pollution, decaying infrastructure, and shifting weather patterns. Each year the theme of the World Water Day is different to make the observers aware of the need of water from different perspectives.

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.

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”.

Scarcity of fresh water:

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.

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.

Water Security:

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.

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.

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.

Trans-boundary /common rivers:

Since India controls major 54 trans-boundary rivers flowing through Bangladesh, it is of great urgency that Bangladesh and India need to prepare a comprehensive plan of action of water development and management of the rivers.

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 trans-boundary/common border rivers. However the Teesta Water Sharing Agreement could not be signed because of India’s domestic politics. It is a severe disappointment for Bangladesh people.

The two countries are to prepare a working plan on the water sharing of the five other trans-boundary /common rivers: Dudhkumar, Manu, Dharala, Khowai, Gumti and Muhuri. But no progress has been achieved as yet.

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:

In 2011 by signing a Framework Agreement on cooperation for Development with Bangladesh , India agreed cooperation on sub-regional and regional level on areas such as, water, energy, food security and environmental degradation. The implementation of regional water management and use as envisaged under the 2011 Agreement has yet to be undertaken.

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 have the mandate of cooperation in flood control, hydropower, irrigation and fisheries among others to optimise use for benefits of shared-basin countries.

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.

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.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva and Former Bangladesh High Commissioner to Australia (1982-84)

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