Workshop on "Sharing Lessons and Experiences on Current Water Management Issues, Opportunities and Challenges from Deltaic Regions in South Asia including Impending Climate Change Impacts"

Photograph : Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, Honorable Minister for Water Resources, Government of Bangladesh, speaks as the Chief Guest

A two days long regional workshop on ‘Sharing Lessons and Experiences on Current Water Management Issues, Opportunities and Challenges from Deltaic Regions in South Asia including Impending Climate Change Impacts’ was held in BRAC Centre, Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 28th and 29th March, 2014. The workshop was jointly organized by Bangladesh Water Partnership and Institute of Water Modelling (IWM) under the aegis of GWP SAS. The workshop was attended by more than 140 participants from home and abroad. Delegates from Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka were also present in the workshop. National delegates included senior officials from the Ministry of Water Resources, Bangladesh Water Development Board, Water Resources Planning Organization including many other government and non-government organizations, academic institutions, research organizations working with water resource management in Bangladesh.

Honorable Minister for Water Resources Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud was the Chief Guest at the inaugural session of the Regional workshop. In his speech he said that one of the most important problems that are to be faced in the next few decades in a broad sense is the problem of water management. Sharing of knowledge, resources and co-operation on international scale is required to handle the water management situation.

He stressed that in Bangladesh, it is not only food security but land security is also an issue. Bangladesh is a deltaic region and is actually the confluence of the three big rivers the Brahmaputra, the Ganges and the Meghna. The land is crisscrossed with meandering and braided rivers, contributing among many other things erosion/depositions and morphological changes. Therefore, water management is directly related to not only drinking water and sanitation but most importantly food security and also because of the erosion/depositions factor, land security.

Prof. Dr. M Monowar Hossain, Executive Director, Institute of Water Modelling gave an overview of the workshop highlighting the background and objectives of the workshop.He emphasized that over population across the world is a serious problem

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especially in South Asia which resulted in severe stress on natural resource management. On top of this impending climate change is expected to exacerbate the situation. Added to this challenge is reducing poverty, hunger and developing the economic footing through effective water resource management in deltas of South Asia requires process that are effective for poor household and operate at river basin level, to stakeholders scale and across country boundary.

Prof. Hossain emphasized that such approaches could be elaborated on the basis of assessment of local knowledge blended with technical study results. Existing knowledge and experience available in public, private and civil societies including institutions can be effectively utilized for proper understanding of the problems, and for planning and implementation of appropriate measures. To achieve the goal, this regional workshop has been organized to identify the burning issues, explore and formulate strategy and implementation process for improving water management issues in South Asia in the face of impending climate change.

Mr. M Shahidur Rahman, Director General, Bangladesh Water Development Board, was present in the workshop as special guest. In his speech he said that Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country. Disasters like tropical cyclones, storm surges, coastal erosion, floods, droughts and saline water encroachment in the coast are common problems almost in every year. Almost every sector of socio-economy in Bangladesh is affected by these disasters. You also know that Bangladesh is very low elevated flat country, where major portion of coastal land form lies within 2-3 meters above mean sea level. Due to its topographical feature and geographical location, the country is extremely vulnerable to water induced disaster.

He said that total coastal area of Bangladesh is 47,201 km2 and per square kilometer density of population in this area is about 946. About 26% of total population lives in our coastal region. Population in this area will increase to 60.8 million in 2050. Bangladesh Water Development Board has taken significant initiatives since inception in1960 to date. BWDB constructed 139 polders in the coastal region. These polders were planned and design for protecting low lying coastal area against tidal inundation and salinity intrusion considering the tidal effects. They were found to be very effective in protecting the life and livelihood of the coastal people at that time although with the passage of time some unwanted effects have crop up.


Speakers in the Workshop


Photograph : Dr. Zafar Ahmed Khan, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Government of Bangladesh, speaks as the Special Guest

Dr. Zafar Ahmed Khan, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Bangladesh was present as Special Guest at the inaugural session. He said that Bangladesh is one of the largest deltas in the world and roughly 154,000 sq.kmland mass with about 160 million populations. There are 400 rivers of which 57 are trans-boundary. It is a low lying deltaic country in South Asia. River erosion, flood and coastal cyclone are major natural disasters. The country is extremely vulnerable to natural disaster because of its geographical setting, its flat deltaic topography and very low elevation makes it more vulnerable to natural disaster.

He stressed that climate related disaster results in large economic losses reducing economic growth and hindering the progress of poverty reduction. In 1998 flood inundated over 2/3rd of Bangladesh and resulted in losses of over 2 billion USD that is 4 to 8 % of GDP. Climate changes will alter and aggravate the natural conditions in these delta regions and elsewhere at a rate never before experienced by mankind. Climate change is expected to increase the severities of many of the problems faced in river deltas. Climate change Impact combined with increasing population, rapid urbanization, and economic development will require urgent attention to address the issues.

Ms. Priyanka Dissanayake was the Special Guest at the workshop. She works in the capacity of Regional Coordinator, Global Water Partnership-South Asia (GWP-SA). She represented the Chairperson of GWP-SA.

In her speech she informed that that there are plans to work with the Country Water Partnership

In her speech she informed that that there are plans to work with the Country Water Partnership organizations from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and also from Afghanistan and Maldives is in the agenda for the next 2 years. GWP-SA planned to undertake a number of regional activities in its agenda. This workshop is the 1st regional activity along with ambitious plans to collaborate with regional organizations in the region, South Asia Cooperative Environment Forum (SACEF) program and SAARC. They are the mandated organizations in the region.

She revealed that declarations, documents and plans have already been made ready towards such a goal for environmental issues. Most of the countries have prepared their NAPAS and National Adaptation Plans as well as their climate change strategies. These projects aim to enhance implementation of these strategies which are effective at regional level, at national level and even at the local community level.

She informed the workshop on South Asia Environment Cooperative (SAEC) program which has been assigned with another program on drought management. Plans were made to develop early drought warning system for South Asia in collaboration with Worlds Meteorological Organization (WMO) and International Water Management Institute (IWMI). She expressed her satisfaction on the delta programs which are specially implemented projects by Bangladesh and where Bangladesh Water Partnership has focused roles in addition to their other usual activities. Bangladesh has recently initiated preparation of Delta Management Plan 2100 which is going to be a long term plan for Bangladesh. She informed that there are lots of things on implementation from project itself from which others can learn from Bangladesh. She also emphasized on regional cooperation.

In his speech, Mr. Shahidul Hasan, President, Bangladesh Water Partnership and Chairperson of the workshop said that few beginning words of today’s workshop that is ‘sharing lessons and experience’ demonstrates that cooperation is at the pivotal point for proper management of the region’s water resources.

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This has also been reflected in speeches of distinguished guests too. Mr. Hasan said the subject of discussion is well known to us and I hope that there will be elaborate discussion during the next two days on how can we move forward guided by our past lessons and experience. Lastly he expressed his sincere gratitude to the distinguished guests and participants for attending the workshop.

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