World Water Day 2018 Observed
Bangladesh Needs Integrated Solutions to Development Planning Considering Political, Social and Local Realities
21 March 2018, Dhaka: The country’s development projects and its planners need to take the existing political, social and community realities into account. Engineering based technological solutions become unusable if these ground realities are not taken into consideration. The issue was raised by Environment & Forest Minister Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud at a National Seminar on Exploring Nature-based Solutions to Water Challenges in Bangladesh in observance of the World Water Day 2018 in Bangladesh. The Seminar was organized today (Wednesday) on 21 March, at PKSF Bhaban, Agargaon, Dhaka. Discussion of the Seminar was directed in line with this year’s UN World Water Day 2018 Theme “Nature for Water” that urges to pursue ways to protect the environment for sustaining water sources.
Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh was the Chief Guest of the Event. Dr. M. Ashraf Ali, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering Division, BUET & Director,
The Environment & Forest Minister Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud acknowledged the call of water sector experts to adopt and integrate eco-friendly technological solutions into country’s development projects to minimize domestic environmental challenges. But he mentioned that, it will not function until the challenges are addressed in integrated fashion. He stated that, the specialists along with the Media is only focusing on the particular problem, rather than taking the bigger scenario into account. For example, he said, “We have built buffer zones across our rivers, to create room for the river. But people have started residing in those areas; consequently houses are built, roads are constructed, markets are established. In the end, the buffer zones are missing causing floods. But the media will report only on the flood situation, skipping other ground realities. The Minister has highlighted non-government sector’s contribution in raising mass awareness and put high emphasis in generating greater awareness among the people. He stated to ensure that the country’s finite resources are invested into protecting the natural cycle. The Environment & Forest Ministry is now working to increase the forest cover area at present. According to the Minister, this is the best and most low cost climate change adaptation and mitigation process.
Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad has stressed on identifying water management system that will save the environment and ecology. He mentioned that PKSF has been promoting poor people’s access to safe water through keeping the environment and ecology unhampered. PKSF is promoting safe water for the climate vulnerable population combating the challenges of climate change in Bangladesh. Dr. Kholiquzzaman further mentioned that there is need to come out of traditional development project designing and our increased knowledge on complex but cost-effective nature-based technological solutions can help in doing so.
Dr. M. Ashraf Ali mentioned that almost half of our wetlands have disappeared and all domestic sewage and most part of the industrial wastewater is being discharged into natural environment without treatment. He said that in the near future, the water of Shitalakhya river will also become unusable, the only usable surface water available for Dhaka. In his technical presentation, Dr. Ashraf Ali said that much of our development planning was going against nature; for example Khilgaon Bashabo Khal being replaced by 20’ wide U-channel, defective box culverts which are not functioning and has turned into waste dumping places, unplanned urbanization across Dhaka-Demra-Narayanganj (DND) embankment area, etc. Besides suggesting various potential nature-based technological solutions, he mentioned to address the knowledge gap and traditional min-set in this area. He stressed in developing standard designs and guidelines for nature-based technologies so that our engineers can apply.
In his welcome note, the Managing Director of PKSF Md. Abdul Karim welcomed Bangladesh’ progress in being acknowledged as a developing nation by the UN but reminded of the challenges ahead of us. He stressed on making maximum utilization of our favourable demographic dividend having a greater ratio of young population. He said that the policy-makers need to ensure that the country’s water resources are completing to development. He said that we have to increase our people’s awareness, skills, and adopt eco-friendly technological solutions to tackle the water scarcity situation created from pollution and encroachment.
In the introductory speech, S.M.A. Rashid, Executive Director of NGO Forum for Public Health emphasized on adopting area-wise Integrated Water Resources Management based projects. He also stressed on addressing the long neglected arsenic issue through eco-friendly technologies and engaging private sector besides public sector in the interventions. Finally, he urged the Local Government Division to play a lead role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6 which is “to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.