Ensuring safe drinking water

Dhaka,  Sun,  20 August 2017
Published : 02 Aug 2017, 21:08:20
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OPINION

Ensuring safe drinking water

All the countries of the world need to mitigate the effect of water scarcity through efficient use of water in all sectors, particularly in agriculture and industrial ones, limiting withdrawal of water within regeneration capacity, writes Shahiduzzaman Khan
Water pollution poses a serious challenge to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in equitable access to safe water by 2030 as the developing countries discharge about 90 per cent of waste water into water-bodies without treatment. 

Such pollution around cities and industrial areas is 15 times higher than open areas and makes water unusable, destroys the aquatic ecosystem and affects health. Increasing the proportion of treated wastewater from 10 per cent to 50 per cent appears to be a substantial increase, but it is not enough in most countries to improve water quality.

Water pollution directly affects water availability, aquatic ecology and has far-reaching effects on health, fisheries and agriculture. Strict effluent control measure is required to improve effluent after treatment to the level of natural water, he suggested. About 700 million people suffer from water scarcity which will rise to 1.8 billion by 2025 with absolute water scarcity. 

The international water conference that concluded in the capital last week adopted Dhaka Declaration with a vow to work together to address the world's growing water challenges and ensure universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030. 

The three-day summit featured Delta Conference and a meeting of High-Level Panel on Water representatives both from home and abroad. They are tasked to design future strategies to face the challenges of safe water management, sewerage and sanitation of the country. 

The Declaration supports efforts to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women, girls and those in vulnerable condition by 2030. It stressed the need for ensuring adequate inclusive, environmentally sound, climate-resilient and safely managed sanitation facilities and hygienic practices, including but not limited to educational and health facilities and transport.

There is a need for expanding international and regional cooperation in water and wastewater management to avail technical assistance and financing (including climate funds). The world leaders who attended the conference agreed to improve and preserve the quality of natural surface water and groundwater through implementation of strict pollution control measures against discharge of untreated domestic sewage and industrial waste waters by adopting advanced wastewater technologies. 

All the countries of the world need to mitigate the effect of water scarcity through efficient use of water in all sectors, particularly in agriculture and industrial ones, limiting withdrawal of water within regeneration capacity, recycling and reuse of water, and by avoidance of misuse and abuse of water. 

There are multiple values of water to enable more informed choices about the use and allocation of precious water resources. Adaptation of basin-based ecological and integrated water resources management approach and trans-boundary cooperation in common rivers and aquifer management should accelerate sustained economic growth in the region. 

Availability of safe water is gradually becoming a challenging issue around the world. Bangladesh is, however, implementing different projects to remove water pollution, which will eventually help achieve targets of the SDGs. There is a need for formulation of a roadmap to mitigate scarcity of safe drinking water and sanitation problems.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appears highly optimistic that Bangladesh would be able to ensure safe drinking water for its entire population by 2030. Addressing the Dhaka water conference, the Prime Minister said Bangladesh ensured access to safe water for 87 per cent of its population by 2015 and that her administration was working for full coverage by 2030. Projects are underway for ensuring safe water from surface water sources in all divisional cities by 2021, she said. 

The government is reportedly implementing short-, medium- and long-term plans to overcome these problems. It has formulated the National Water Policy 1999, the Water Supply and Sewerage Act 1996 and the National Water Supply and Sanitation Act 2014. In the capital, new canals are being excavated, and initiatives are on to re-excavate the old ones and preserve the reservoirs. Steps are also underway to build reservoirs installing rainwater harvesting system and draining out wastes and polluted water. 

Taking assistance from 12 development partners, the government has initiated a 100-year plan titled 'Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100' for coordinated water resources management. Under the plan availability of water, its uses and ecological issues have been brought under consideration.

Thrust should, however, be given to protect ecologically sensitive areas, restoring damaged ecosystem, and aligning development activities to halt decline of natural ecosystem, aiming to protect biodiversity and ensure uninterrupted ecological services. 

Also, there is a need for promoting continual learning and sharing of knowledge, experience, innovation and good practice within and among the regional countries through meetings, seminars and conferences. 

szkhanfe@gmail.com
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