United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Bangladesh

Intervention by Mr. Abdul Alim, representative of Bangladesh at an
interactive discussion s on Integrated Water Resources Management on 12
April 2005
Madam Chair,
Water management is complex and multi-dimensional. Integrated Water
Resources Management (IWRM) needs to be tailored to the specific
circumstances of each country. Panelist Mr. Joashim Harlin has focused
on that.
Madam Chair,
The economy of Bangladesh is primarily dependent on natural resources.
Geographically it is hugely disadvantaged. Out of our 54 rivers, 53 flow in
from beyond our national territory. As a lower riparian country, water is a
question of life and death in Bangladesh. During lean season, we face
severe scarcity of surface water.
The scarce surface water consequently results in scaling down of the
ground water levels. Dearth of water at both surface and ground levels
gravely affects our navigation, irrigation, fishing, bio-diversity and the
whole eco-system. Sometimes, in the dry season, it inflicts catastrophic
droughts. While the monsoon brings forth excessive flow of water from the
upstream that causes flood, and again it takes a heavy toll on our capital
and human life.
The groundwater, till now, has been the best source of safe drinking water.
We almost reached universal access to safe drinking water by 1993. But
trace of arsenic in the sub-surface water has reduced the coverage to 70
percent and has affected 40 million people of the country. Arsenic in the
shallow aquifer has compelled the augmentation and use of surface
water. Intrusion of salinity in the ground water of coastal belt and island
areas are the big challenges for ensuring safe drinking water. Water
desalination and purification inflicted a huge cost burden on the
government.
In case of international water, exchange of information and data on
relevant aspects of hydrology would be critical to help each other
understand the current and emerging problems in the management of
the shared water resources. It is also critically important to ensure just and
equitable shares for all co-riparian countries in the spirit of regional or subregional
cooperation. Global support in this regard, could immensely
benefit the process. The report of the SG also underscores this issue.
Madam Chair,
International society including multilateral organizations such as United
Nations, regional development banks and inter-governmental
organizations should take a firm role in promoting IWRM planning and
implementation in each country. The international community should
support the developing countries, particularly the LDCs, in their
preparation and implementation of IWRM planning through financial and
technical assistances.
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