Bangladesh is located at the lower riparian country of the three major internationally famous rivers, namely the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. Management and development of the water resources of the country is completely dependent on the availability of water from the Transboundary Rivers and rainfall distribution round-the-year. It has been recognized that Bangladesh experiences water shortage in the dry season and water abundance in the wet season which disrupt significantly the agro-environmental practices and socio-economic activities of the country. To address the problems encountered due to such water shortage or abundance, cooperation among the co-basin countries is needed, as well as proper utilization and conservation of water resources has to be practiced. This paper denotes the Sustainability of ‘life below water’, utilization and conservation options based on available information in the context of Bangladesh.
Setting the Scene
Water resources management and its proper utilization improve the agro-environmental conditions of a country. Compliance with the policy is intended to ensure that the development and management of the nation’s water resources include the protection, restoration and preservation of natural habitats and their dependent bio-diversity with specific provisions for wetlands, mangrove and other forests, endangered species and water quality. Utilization of water resources in Bangladesh depends on its availability and conservation depends on the storability due to upstream conditions of the lower riparian countries. Water conservation consists of actions that reduces the demand of water, improve efficiency in use and reduces losses and waste, and improves land management practices to conserve water. The natural subsystem of water resources system are: 1) the interlinked system of rivers, estuaries, canals, khals (smaller than rivers in size) etc. 2) the floodplain 3) wetlands 4) haor, baor, beel (local names of different kinds of ponds filled with stagnant rain water), lakes etc. 5) ponds 6) inter-tidal lands and water 7) groundwater aquifers. However, other than rivers, the natural reservoirs are scarce and thereby water conservation in rainy season for dry season use is limited.
Water resources management is now a global concern, the main purpose of which is to provide adequate water for humans and the natural environment. The water management includes water utilization, water source conservation, monitoring and preservation of water quality. In this paper the overall status of water resources of Bangladesh and its utilization in different areas with emphasis to conservation is described based on available information. In almost all the shared rivers, except the three major rivers, no flow situation prevails during driest period of the year. Due to indiscriminate and unilateral upstream withdrawal of water of common rivers during lean period when the country needs it (in absence of any rainfall), a water crisis situation is prevailing in Bangladesh. The southwest part of the country is the most affected region due to upstream withdrawal of the Ganges at Farakka where irreversible environmental degradation is happening. Peak monsoon flow is often causing flood in Bangladesh. In normal year, about 20% of the country is inundated which in extreme cases may rise up to 60%.
In addition to natural rivers, water is retained in localized low pockets (beels/baors) and ponds in dry season. Kapatai Lake is the lonely reservoir in the country that has storage capacity. Total volume of such standing water bodies is about 0.61 billion cubic meters. Floodplains (about 80% of the total area of the country) become seasonal wetlands during monsoon (July-October) because of slow drainage of huge transboundary flow and local rainfall excess. The seasonal wetlands remain inundated from a few days to as long as several months. Estimated volume of water stored in these seasonal wetlands/floodplains is about 2.69 billion cubic meters. This seasonal storage has virtually no contribution during dry season. The numerous channels criss-crossing the entire country, in flowing stage, store water till these are completely dries. Estimated volume of channel storage is of the order of 0.5 billion cubic meters.
Sustainable Development Goals: Meaning and Significance
The SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which started a global effort in 2000 to tackle the indignity of poverty. The MDGs established measurable, universally-agreed objectives for tackling extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly diseases, and expanding primary education to all children, among other development priorities. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. The objective was to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges.
One of the main outcomes from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012 was an international agreement to negotiate a new set of global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide the path of sustainable development in the world after 2015. Building on the MDGs, the SDGs were established following the largest multiple stakeholder consultation process of its kind. On September 25th 2015 during the UN General Assembly in New York, an unprecedented 193 countries adopted the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals with 169 specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. In the words of the United Nations Development Program, the goals are designed “to end poverty, hunger and inequality, take action on climate change and the environment, improve access to health and education, and build strong institutions and partnerships, and more”.
Global community has adopted the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, encompassing 17 universal and transformative goals and 169 targets. With the global commitment of leaving no one behind, the 2030 Agenda aimed at ending poverty and hunger, attaining gender equality, fighting inequality and tackling climate change to protect the earth.
According to the Burtland Commission Report, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable development is based on the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social sustainability. The Sustainable Development Goals are the great scheme to acquire a better and more sustainable future for whole. They address the most pressing global challenges we face, including hunger, poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, peace and justice.
The main source of ground water is the recharge from surface water. Most of the areas of Bangladesh have been formed from the sedimentary alluvial and deltaic deposits of three major rivers. These alluvial deposits have formed mainly an unconfined aquifer for most of the area of the country. Groundwater was supposed to be one of the major natural resources of the country except the safe drinking water supplies. But the presence of Arsenic in shallow aquifer has completely changed the situation. It is estimated that about 16% of present population of 123.15 million is exposed to arsenic contamination exceeding Bangladesh standard (0.05 mg/l). About 74452 sq.km. of groundwater use area (about 50% of the country) is unsuitable for use by hand tube wells (as a source of drinking water according to World Health Organization standard) due to arsenic.
Economy of Marine Resources in Bangladesh
In general, 80% of global trade by volume is carried by sea and handled by ports worldwide. According to the research of UNCTAD – global seaborne trade would be augmented by 4.3% every year from 2018. We can ensure our participation in global seaborne trade by linking coastal states. Bangladesh can do it easily through the Chittagong, mongla and paira port. These three ports can be used as a transit. It will amplify our national income amazingly.
Marine bio-prospecting is an indispensable element of biotechnology. It’s a common matter that, oceans and seas are the source of a huge variety of life forms including macro and micro-organisms. Living marine resources have huge potential for developing new food, biochemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and bio-energy applications. About 18,000 natural products have been developed to date from about 4,800 marine organisms. What is more, the global market for marine biotechnology is projected to reach US$ 4.9 billion by 2018. Bangladesh has great potential to get the benefit from these living marine resources. In our country, Fisheries production shows increasing trend.
Fig 1: Total Fisheries Production (Source: FAO, 2017)
It is very important that, our government is working to reach electricity in each and every home by the year of 2021. In this context, Bangladesh has the highest potential like other coastal states to electricity generation from the offshore wind by using turbines. Global offshore wind capacity is growing at the incredible rate of 40% per year, producing 7, 100 megawatts of electricity in 2013. From this, it can be predicted that the growing demand of electricity can be mitigated by means of wind to produce electricity in Bangladesh.
Economy and Sustainability of life below water in Bangladesh
Coral reefs are not only eye-catching ? rich in marine biota and endow with subsidence to coastal people. Coral reefs are serene of mostly calcium carbonate (caco3). In general, more than 50% of calcium carbonates of coral reefs are contributed by algae. It consists of corals, their skeletons and reef as fundamental ingredients.
Coral reefs are highly productive areas being the home of various types’ fish and other marine fauna are rich in biodiversity. In terms of economic and ecologic value, these are very insightful areas. Reef building corals necessitate warm and lucid water to breed and are found in shallow waters close to water’s edge. As a result, these are vulnerable to toxic elements, contaminants and silt. As functioning of protection from wave erosion coral reefs, all-inclusive there is some 600,000 km, 10 % of which is totally tainted and other 30% would degrade within next twenty years.
Global augmentation of human population is the foremost root of dreadful conditions of coral reefs. Constructions on coral reef islands or alongside the coastal areas have led to unwarranted, domestic, farming and industrial contamination. The toxic elements being discharged in coastal waters find their way into reef area killing coral building polyps. Toxic elements put off larval development and destroy grown-up flora and fauna which are essential component of reef population. A mile of reef at Eilat in red sea (Israel) was scratched by unremitting oil and fertilizer pollution.
Fishing with toxin is extremely disparaging to reef systems. In addition, herbicides and pesticides from agricultural run-off can have solemn undesirable impacts on coral reef. Mess, nutrients and fertilizers lead to eutrophication and may be the foundation of death of reef organisms. Poverty in land using and deforestation leads too much silt being carried into the coastal waters. Also, reduces the dissemination of light thus leading to ultimate death of coral polyps. These are widespread practices in coastal areas of Bangladesh. Overexploitation of coral resources is another root of degradation in our country. Mining of coral reefs for lime in Sri Lanka has led to wearing away the seashore. Silt washed into the ocean area kill reef life causing permanent destruction of corals. In Bangladesh, only a petite region in the St. Martins Island consists of coral reefs. Even that is being defenseless. The marine sciences institute, Chittagong ? had isolated 13 genera of corals in the area also several species of fish and algae. The island supports 85 species of birds, 12 species of mammals, more than 20 species of reptiles and 4 species of amphibians.
Ecological humiliation of this minute coral ecosystem ? the only one in Bangladesh, is due to assorted on-site and off-site anthropogenic and natural hazards. On-site and off-site pollution from household, manufacturing and ship sources and from fishing trawlers plying on the waters are focal threats to the coral reef ecology. Agricultural run-offs from plain land and processing of fish for drying also contribute to contamination of reef waters. Compilation of corals and shells for money-making purposes and overfishing in ocean area are also causes of dreadful conditions. Plying of boats and trawlers in the bay area ? for the purpose of fishing or transporting people, goods, and anchoring those boats detrimental to reefs.
In general, in our coral reefs area there is no command over tourists who visit the island and no regulations restricting their negative externality. Walking over the reefs, collecting of shells and breaking off corals ? contribute to demolition of reefs. During the monsoon, rivers carry heavy loads of silt into sea, recurrent flash floods in the mainland carry sediments into the sea. Silt and sediment hinders coral escalation and are important causes of degradation of coral reefs in Himchari and the St. Martins Island.
Unless indigenous strategies are followed in protecting the reefs, we may soon annihilate this attractive land of biodiversity. The government has declared St. Martins island an ecologically endangered area. Even if the government encourages eco-tourism, only guided tours should be permissible in the St. Martine Island. Tourist should be informed about regulations and protective measures coral reef island. In fact, rules and regulations should be situate and revealed.
Time has come for the inhabitants of the island should be aware about the upshot of the destruction of coral reef ecosystem. The unfavorable impact on the fisheries itself may guide the fishermen to make use of the fishing grounds more sensibly. It is possible to prevent local pollution through educating the inhabitants and monitoring their activities. We have to deal with off-site contamination through pollution control policies. Apart from that, government has to come forward with home-grown agricultural and forest management strategies to thwart top soil erosion, which has turned into a danger to the endurance of coral reefs and ecological security.
Our ocean- Bay of Bengal is full of fisheries resources. We can easily access benefits from utilizing fisheries resources from the sea. Bangladesh gets 60 lac tons of fishes every year from the Bay of Bengal. It is about 16% of the world’s total production. Marine fisheries contribute at least 20% of total fish production in Bangladesh and 50, 0000 people fully and directly dependent on the sector. The target for 2030 is to pursue fishing in a sustainable way. Total fisheries production is forecasted to keep rising till 2030.
Fig 2: Forecasted Fisheries Production (Source: CPD, 2017)
In terms of salt manufacture, presently we are producing salt by using small refinery units. The quantity of production is not enough. Production of industrial salt can be done using advanced technologies and eventually it becomes an exporting product. Diverse researches mention, natural resources particularly, minerals – copper, magnesium, nickel and precious metals, including cobalt in the seabed are available Bangladesh. Through exploring mineral resources, we can supply industrial raw materials in different industries.
Strategies of Bangladesh to Achieve Sustainability
Set National Priority and Turning SDG into Reality
SDG is a global target that will drive the world development for next 11 years. This requires each country to set their own agenda based on their priority that reflects they social, economic and political structure of each country. In Bangladesh, Parliament is at the suitable position to bring SDG to the citizen at both national and local level and engage all stakeholders to set national priorities and make all stakeholders accountable.
Ensuring Quality of SDGs
Parliamentarians through their oversight function can monitor government actions in relation to the progress of SDGs implementation. Parliament can bring SDG and its progress and the importance of ensuring quality to people’s attention through bringing SDGs into various discussions including plenary and committee meetings. Parliament monitors and observes government’s work and achievements.
Parliament as the authority to allocate national budget can ensure appropriate financing for SDG implementation, Parliament can analyze and identify areas of priority and allocate budget that ensures effective implementation. Implementation of SDGs requires allocation of enough resources to implement SDGs. Members of Parliament provide supports to allocate financial resource from government which ensures to keep rolling the development process.
Co-operation with Executive Power
Integrating SDGs agenda in established national strategies obliges cooperation between the legislative and executive powers, by which the government and other state institutions, provide the practical and technical support for the agenda approved by the parliament. In Germany there is a State’s Secretary Committee on Sustainable Development this Committee rests with the Federal Chancellery, the main entity responsible for sustainable development at the national level. It works closely with ministries in shaping and implementing the national sustainable development strategy.
Capacity of Partnerships
Active partnerships are every important to attain this very high ambitious goals. It is not possible only for the government to ensure effective implementation as well as quality of the implementation. All partners and stakeholders have equal responsibility to take part in SDG implementation. It can form partnerships among different stakeholders including CSOs, academicians, business community, government, international development organizations and others.
International Cooperation and Conference
Another big duty of MPs is to maintain continuous communication with UN Bodies, development donors and partners. In implementing the SDGs, it is important to stay up to date on what is happening and where the agenda is heading. This can be achieved by being part of the international network working on the SDGs.
National Monitoring & Evaluation Framework
We are in the process of finalizing a Monitoring & Evaluation Framework for SDGs implementation. This framework will have a macro level web based data repository system to facilitate data collection, analysis, progress tracking and reporting.
Assimilation of SDGs targets in Performance Agreement
Bangladesh has introduced Annual Performance Agreement (APA), a results-based performance management system, across the whole spectrum of public sector assessing individual and ministries/agencies performance.
Constraints to Achieve ‘SDG 14: Life below Water’ in Bangladesh
The SDG 14 has 7 targets include prevention and reduction of marine pollution; sustainable management and production of marine and coastal eco-systems; minimizing and addressing the influences over the acidification of ocean; regulating the reaping and preventing too many fishes to catch and not legal cum unchecked fishing; conserving at least 10 percent of marine areas; banning certain fisheries subsidies that contribute to over-capacity and over-fishing; and sustainable use of marine resources help to add growth and economic benefits to least developed countries. Implementation of these targets would require closer coordination, efficient cum effective management of marine resources by relevant public entities like the ministries of fisheries and livestock, shipping and water resources, the department of fisheries as well as defense organizations like the Navy and Coast Guards.
The Bay of Bengal is the great source of fisheries by which we can meet the huge demand of increasing population of the country. There is high income elasticity of demand of fisheries products and there is a projection of National Agriculture Commission that demand for fish will increase at approximately 4.1% between 2010 and 2020.
Bangladesh has recently gained a vast swath of marine territory. This marine area is rich in natural gas resources and biodiversity. Exploitation of gas resources may pose grave danger to biological resources. Sustainable management of these resources is now a big challenge for the country. In recent times, it has declared two marine protected areas, one targeting Hilsa breeding ground and Cetaceans. The total protected marine area now stands at 2.05% from the total marine area (Target 14.5). Major success has been achieved in Hilsa protection with production almost doubling in last 15 years.
Diversion of water in Meghna at the Barak dam could have effects on the eastern region. Efficient water and flood management and assured shares of the dry season flows of the Transboundary Rivers have, therefore, become imperative for the survival of Bangladesh. Interception of flood waters by upstream storage is crucial need for augmentation of dry season flow, power generation, comprehensive development and harnessing of water resources of Bangladesh. As the lower riparian state of three major river systems, Bangladesh should work with its neighbors towards overall basin management, with an early focus on the different hydrological regions and promoting information exchange. Although Signature of Ganges Water Treaty in 1996 is an important milestone, continued efforts are needed to secure Bangladesh’s share of the flows of the other 53 transboundary rivers. The National Water Management Plan has to address and balance the conflicting needs of too much water in monsoon and too little in the dry season which would need tapping the resources of both surface and ground water.
The Writer is an Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association.