Sustainable development in global context
Ali. Akbar Haider
world’s population has more than doubled compared to what it was around 1950.
Predictions indicate that the world’s population is now residing largely in
urban areas. By 2050, urban dwellers may account for 60 per cent of the world
total. It is apprehended that the rural population will in large portion be
unattended by engineering services.
including water and commodities are not well distributed or utilised. Some
social analysts predict that the future World War may be over water resources.
has an agrarian economy. Agriculture accounts for nearly 46 per cent of the GDP.
Jute and rice are the main cash crops. Other crops include tea, sugarcane,
oilseeds, fruits vegetables, species, wheat, potatoes, tobacco and cotton. The
major industry in Bangladesh is jute processing followed by cotton spinning,
steel rolling, garments and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Almost all are water
dependent. Bangladesh is crisscrossed by more than 200 rivers, which are the
lifeblood of this fertile delta. Water brings invaluable benefits for
agriculture, fishing and navigation, but sometimes it brings havoc.
standard of living for rural people depend on agricultural commodities, but
agriculture receives a low profile due to the low prices of agricultural
products. Again it is to be mentioned that the devaluation of the local currency
against the US dollar every year reduces the purchasing capacity of the people.
Statistics show that the prices of agricultural goods including rice and pulses
are showing a downward trend in 1999. The price of rice declined by 7.57 per
cent due to bumper production in that year but the cost of living rose by 6.42
per cent and the price of others commodities rose by 2.13 in 1999. In 2000, it
became 6.38 per cent and 1.98 per cent respectively. It is obvious that
sustainable water related agricultural development will help to curb such
Himalyan cachements are the vital source from which of almost all the major
rivers of Bangladesh. The natural topographical condition makes Bangladesh a
river basin which drains more than 90 per cent of the country’s waters. In
Bangladesh the unreliability of the climate, floods and droughts have always
been part of our existence. We have become more prone to disaster and the extent
of the disaster is increased from time to time. No doubt, good water management
offers hope for the future of Bangladesh. But there are problems. Floods from
the north and cyclones from south wreak havoc. Moreover, erosion is another
natural catastrophe for which a substantial number of people are forced off
their lands and out of their homes.
scarcity of water is a problem in the dry season due to water diversion by the
upland riparian. Salt water in the coastal areas affects irrigation and causes
damaging salinisation. The ground water in deep aquifers contain non-renewable
water and is beyond use; blue water is being treated for consumptive and
non-consumptive use. Green water in the unsaturated soil is being used for
productive purposes. Though water is abundant in Bangladesh, water is relatively
expensive substance to transport and store in regard to its value and it is a
finite and vulnerable resource.
in Bangladesh the context we have as regards water is that it is too little yet
too much. And to ensure the availability of water in Bangladesh, including
rainwater, surface water and ground water, in usable forms, there is a need for
role and responsibility of engineers should be not be limited to finding the
optimal investment and cost return ratio in the development process. Saving of
resources such as time, man, money and material and the adoption of appropriate
technology will ensure the sustainability of almost all development projects
with expected growth. The challenge for the engineer of Bangladesh is to satisfy
the essential needs of human life in Bangladesh.
is meant to promote the quality of human life and the following criteria are
needed for consideration for sustainability of water-based development:
Water for consumption use/green use
Efficient energy utilisation and
opportunity for use of water for all
do the engineering for sustainable development, measures have to be taken to
protect and conserve the resources, including water commodities, and to empower
women. Working towards poverty alleviation is a must. Private investment needs
to be actively promoted in the water sector.
show that the weaknesses in institutions and the insufficiencies of other
commodities, the unmanaged distribution of resources and its uses, illiteracy
and poverty, are all major causes of ineffective development. Improper and
unsustainable planning are also causes for ill return from a project.
sustainable development in Bangladesh, there is a need for a change of
engineering ethics: need-based development of the community for the people
instead of complex technology-based development. We must avoid hard engineering
approaches. Side by side, appropriate technology and an indigenous development
culture may contribute sustainability to a project.
bottom-up or real participatory planning approach and people based technology
can help sustainable development, though the way is long. Here are some points
to be mindful of:
Hardware strategy: including institutional, social, environmental concerns and
the use of appropriate technology and indigenous technology. There must be a
political will to improve appropriate bottom-up water management and to build
partnership initiatives and capacity building.
b) Software strategy: including people planning, participatory planning development sharing and recognising the collective and individual burden of responsibility to society.
c) Regional strategy: including interregional co-operation, region specific planning, political transparency and enacting a legal framework for regional water use.
With regard to the water related sector, and its partner, co-partner activities such as IDA/WB financed development and food aid projects, the importance of careful planning and a clear political will for achieving higher standards of life for the worst off cannot be overlooked. Bangladesh is in the process of developing its water sector in order to improve the livelihood of the people. Sustainability depends on the improved operation and maintenance of current and completed projects. It requires the adoption of people participation at all levels of the development effort and renovations of selected completed development activities to reduce adversities.
The environment, technical, social, economic and institutional concerns; and equity, poverty alleviation, security, health and increased employment facilities are necessary factors for sustainability. Development only for the people and by the people of the society, will ensure sustainability and depends on community or stakeholder participation.
Source: The Independent, 9 February 2001