Bangladesh lies in the northeastern part of South Asia. The country is bounded by India on the west, north and northeast, Myanmar on the southeast and the Bay of Bengal on the south. It is the lowest riparian of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Basin. Most of its area is low lying floodplain formed from the alluvial soil deposited by rivers. Floods during monsoon and water scarcity during winter have made water management a complex issue in Bangladesh.
Proper management, protection and exploitation of the water resources is a challenge imposed by population growth, increasing pressure on water and land resources by competing usage, and an increasing trend in damages to life and property caused by water related disasters. In Bangladesh, systematic approach in water management started with Krugg Mission Report followed by Water Sector Master Plan of 1964 (in the then-East Pakistan) showing concepts of major flood control, drainage and irrigation. The Plan emphasized the construction of large-scale embankments in inland and polders in coastal areas that would harness the potential of the fertile soils spark agricultural growth and feed and provide safety to the growing population. This plan was followed by 1972 study by the World Bank for reconstruction and development. The priority was then shifted from large scale projects to small scale projects but predominantly in expansion of small-scale irrigation through exploitation of groundwater. Initially emphasis was placed on flood control and drainage, however later focus was shifted to irrigation. This resulted in lowering of ground water table and adverse environmental impacts in many parts of the country. In course of time, Government of Bangladesh (GoB) approved its National Water Policy (NWPo, 1999) and National Water Management Plan (NWMP, 2004).
The distinction between “integrated” and “traditional” management of water resources to a large extent relies on the scope and sphere of operation of the two. Whereas the latter is typically sector-oriented (water supply, irrigation, hydropower, etc.) and focused on satisfying the perceived demands within each sector, the former attempts to take a cross-sectoral integrated approach and focuses as much on management of demand as on supply of water. Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is a process, which promotes coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystem. In Bangladesh context, a severe imbalance of water availability exists during different periods of the year. Abundant water during monsoon creates flood whereas too little surface water in dry season generates drought in some parts of the country. These problems are further compounded by human interventions. It is inevitable that any solution for a problem of one water user will have an adverse impact on another, calling for an integrated approach to water resources management where cross sectoral issues can be accommodated.
A closer look at objectives of NWPo reveals that its primary goal is to achieve the objectives of IWRM through cluster of following means:
- Expand knowledge base of the sector
- Accelerate development of sustainable public and private water delivery systems
- Reform water sector institutions
- Create enabling environment by legal, institutional and regulatory changes in assisting process of decentralisation
- Facilitate broad public participation
|IWRM and its relation to sub-sectors (source: IPSWAM)|
The important thing is now for implementing the NWMP. It is impractical to conceive that all theoretically derived conditions should be fulfilled prior to initiating IWRM. The best approach is learning by doing. As the programme moves ahead, many unanticipated constraints may appear. The situational context will determine on how to deal with those. The risk of that kind of contingencies should not deter our efforts at initiating IWRM. This is so, since its a new kind of management approach that seeks to build on experience and knowledge surrounding complexities of integrated water management.
Integrated Planning for Sustainable Water Management
Integrated Planning for Sustainable Water Management (IPSWAM) Programme of the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) has conceived a new policy framework in operationalizing new approach under the NWPo. Through this approach, principles of IWRM are currently being put into practice. Implementing an IWRM process involves adopting three pillars of IWRM, enabling environment, institutional framework and management instruments, as demonstrated in the following figure.
|The "three pillars" of IWRM: Enabling Environment, Institutional Framework and Management Instruments|
From 1950s onwards Bangladesh made considerable investments in water management infrastructure, especially in coastal districts. The principal economic justification has been the protection of paddy crops from damage by saline and non-saline tidewater. These investments, in development of polders through construction of dykes, sluices and drainage channels, initially created a stable environment for agricultural development. However, in some areas, reduction in tidal prism resulted in sedimentation of estuarine channels and severe impediment of drainage.
When drainage problems become acute in early 1980s, rehabilitation programmes undertaken by GoB were found to have had number of important limitations and short-comings. Stakeholders, especially the women community were hardly consulted; little or no attention was given to broader environmental or agro-ecological issues. Proper maintenance funds were not available leading to deterioration in infrastructure quite seriously over time. The above short-comings drastically reduced potential benefits of large investments made earlier in water management infrastructure. This called for an integrated and participatory approach with adequate and proper utilisation of operation and maintenance funds.
One of the three pillars of IWRM, enabling environment has been provided, to some extent by the National Water Policy and other policy documents. The Integrated Planning for Sustainable Water Management (IPSWAM) Programme was established to provide the second and third pillars of IWRM, an institutional framework and management instruments. This was done, in the context of cross-sectoral integration through a six-step methodology for Integrated Planning for Sustainable Water Resource Management:
- Identification/ selection of sub-projects
- Participatory/, multidisciplinary data collection, analysis and option development
- Formation of Water Management Organisations (WMO)
- Plan formulation and finalization
- Rehabilitation work
- Long-term operation and maintenance with monitoring
An institutional framework of Water Management Organisations (WMO’s) has been developed, linked to local government institutions (LGIs) and BWDB through participatory planning and infrastructure rehabilitation through long-term Operation and Maintenance (O&M) agreements. Management instruments were provided to WMO members, LGI representatives and relevant BWDB staff through development of specific methodologies for each stage in the process, and disseminated through a focused training programme.
Experience in three IPSWAM sub-projects where project staff were withdrawn from early 2006 shows that WMO’s are still active and that water management is still improving under the new system. Moreover, it can be concluded that principles of IWRM are being successfully applied in practical water management in nine sub-projects in coastal Bangladesh, with positive results. It is expected that, after the finalization of the national BWDB Guidelines on Integrated Planning for Sustainable Water Resource Management, that this approach will be applied on a broader scale.