Management of water resources


by Dwijen Mallick


 THE people of Bangladesh are familiar with the annual phenomenon of Barsha (monsoon) and Bannya (flood) and they have developed the major cropping patterns reaping the benefits of annual flooding, but in the recent years, the flow of flood water is hampered due to construction of a number of roads and physical structures across the country which have obstructed the livelihood activities of the millions. In Bangladesh, water comes from the north and flows towards the south through hundreds of rivers and floodplains, but there have been innumerable roads and highways, and dams constructed east-west obstructing the normal flow of water. Floodplain ecosystems are adversely hampered by those ill-conceived constructions. This was said by the participants at a day-long workshop on "Integrated Local Water Resources Management", held at the BRDB Training Institute in Tangail recently. Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), a Dhaka-based policy research institute organised the workshop.

A Z M Obaidullah Khan, former Minister of Agriculture and Food and a noted columnist, observed that water has gradually been transferred into an economic good from a common property resource, and those who have money have greater access to and control over it. As a result, the farmer would get less water in future for crop cultivation while the moneyed men would take much water for their industrial activities. He also emphasised that for sustainable management of water resources, true people's participation is to be ensured as well as the knowledge and technology of the local people to be utilised and most importantly, the responsibilities of water management and necessary resources to be transferred to the local government and local community for better management and use of water resources and only thus the interests and priorities of the local community as well as the ecosystems could be met.The main objectives of the workshop were to share the primary findings of a three-year project on "Sustainable Local Water Resources Management in Bangladesh: Meeting Needs and Resolving Conflicts". BCAS and the Environment Centre of the University of Leeds have jointly conducted the study with support from the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK under the Natural Resources Systems Programme (NRSP). Dr. A. Atiq Rahman, Director of BCAS presided over the inaugural session. About 50 government and NGO officials, development activists, teachers and representatives of the local stakeholder groups of the study area attended the workshop.It was informed that the longitudinal study used multiple methods of information gathering and analysis on availability and various uses of water for different livelihood activities and the problems in gaining adequate quality water for different activities. The methods and tools were used in four phases of the study. In the first phase, the study team conducted field reconnaissance and established community links, while in the second stage secondary data and literature on the related issues were collected and analysed for getting a better understanding of the issues and concerns. In the third phase, socio-economic, water related and spatial data were collected from the field through census and sample survey. Finally, few thematic studies were conducted on identification of major problems in relation to water and rural livelihood, domestic water quality and human health, information dissemination, flood of 1998 and integrated local water management etc.Sarder Shafiqul Alam, Research Fellow of BCAS in his presentation informed that due to lack of normal floods in the area, scarcity of surface water was identified as the number one problem. Siltation on river beds, canals, construction of roads, embankments, sluice gates and other flood control structures preventing normal flood water flow from the major river to the locality were the major causes behind the lack of normal flood water.

The participants discussed the issues of integrated approach of water management, integration of the interests of the users, integration among the agencies and departments, who are involved in water management at national and local level. Most of the participants appreciated the findings and at the same time they emphasised the utilisation of the research findings by the related departments and actors. Finally, the participants came out with a set of recommendations for both research and actions, which were as follows Research: Water quality and sanitation issues need further in-depth study

  • Maximising retention of flood waters (e.g. through canals, and ponds) needs to be explored

  • Ground water availability and quality need further investigation;

  • Institutional aspects of water management need further study and elaboration;

  • and Actions: Greater coordination at local level between government agencies and NGOs needs to be established

  • Monitoring of Compartmentalisation Pilot Project (CPP) needs to be continued;

  • Local water management groups need to be tried

  • Greater participation of women in decision making for both household and farm activities needs to be ensured;

  • and Local government needs to be involved more in decision making.

--BCAS Feature

 Source: The Independent, 21 April 2000
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