Bangladesh Water Development Board

Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) a government agency responsible for administering the flow of both surface water including rivers and water-ways and ground water through water resources development and management. There is a long history behind the establishment of this organisation. Following the recurrent flooding occurred in three consecutive years from 1954 to 1956, food production reduced remarkably and the country was about to face a severe catastrophe. A huge amount of food was imported to cope up with the situation. Even then the price of food grains was so high that most of the ordinary consumers did not have capacity at all to buy those. In this context, the central government of Pakistan requested the United Nations to provide technical assistance. A mission, led by J A Crug, former Secretary to the US government, was constituted to make recommendation for resolving the crisis.

The Crug mission started its function on 12 November 1956 and submitted a report on 3 June 1957. On the basis of their recommendation, an organisation to administer the country's water and power sectors, was formed in 1959. The East Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (EPWAPDA) was emerged following a government ordinance with two wings-water wing and power wing. After the independence, the EPWAPDA was abolished by a presidential decree and two organisations were created in 1972: Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) and Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). Similar functions and charter of duties of the water wing of the erstwhile EPWAPDA were assigned to BWDB, formed comprising a Chairman and five members.

During the last decade of the 20th country, development partners and donors put their constant pressure on the government of Bangladesh to reconstitute BWDB as an autonomous body to infuse dynamism in its activities. As a result the Bangladesh Water Development Board Act-2000 was passed in the parliament and now BWDB is being administered under this Act. Moreover, a 13-member council was constituted with the Minister for Water Resources as its Chairman to take policy decisions for administering the board. The board was also reconstituted creating new posts of one Director General and five Additional Director Generals to run the administrative and other assigned functions of the board.

According to the Act of 2000, the jurisdiction of administering the flow of all rivers, waterways and ground water bodies bestowed on BWDB. It is also responsible to undertake programmes relating to water resources sector including project formulation, implementation, operation, maintenance and evaluation in line with the National Water Policy and the National Water Plan. The activities of BWDB are divided into two inter-related groups: Structure related functions and non-structure oriented supportive activities. The structure-oriented functions of the BWDB are; (1) Development and control of rivers, river basins and construction of water reservoirs barrages, embankments, regulators and other structures for flood control, drainage and irrigation system development and drought prevention; (2) Re-excavation of water ways, canals, water bodies etc. for the improvement of water flow or to divert its course with a view to easing irrigation, fisheries, shipping, afforestation, wild life preservation and environment development; (3) Protection, recovery and reclamation of land and management of river estuaries; (4) Protection of river banks, towns, markets and places of historical and national importance from river erosion; (5) Construction and protection of coastal embankments; (6) Prevention of infiltration of saline water and desertification and (7) Harvesting of rain water for irrigation, environment protection and drinking purpose.

The non-structure based supportive activities include: (1) Forecasting and warning of flooding and drought; (2) Conducting hydrological investigation and research and collection, preservation and dissemination of information and data regarding these matters; (3) Construction of roads on dams and embankments, implementation of fisheries projects and afforestation on own land to ensure environmental protection and development; (4) Conducting research on BWDB'S own programmes; (5) Organise the beneficiaries of the implemented projects to continue the programmes and to inspire them to participate in the new projects and (6) Innovation, implementation and administration of institutional structures and techniques to recover the project expenditure and project management.

The total flood prone area of the country is 11.7 million hector. About 5.9 million hectors of land of this area was brought under the flood protection programme till 2009. BWDB provides irrigation facilities to 1.41 million hectors of land only against 8.2 million hectors of land, suitable for irrigation. It has created a conducive environment in the northeastern 'haor' area and made 290 thousand hectors of land cultivable for Boro paddy. BWDB has constructed 1826 Kilometre long dwarf dam to protect this crop from flash floods. It also constructed embankments of different shapes totaling 10,224 kilometer in 2008-09 fiscal year. The number of projects implemented till then was 714, under which a total of 19,726 water structures, sluice-regulators, bridges and culverts, four barrages and 19 pumping stations were constructed. Agri-products worth about 450 thousand million taka are produced per year in the command area of BWDB projects and about 80 million people, mostly day laborers, farmers and fishermen of rural areas are being benefited from the board's flood protection projects. The most outstanding benefits of such projects are: the people are protected of their lives and wealth and they use the roads constructed over the dams for easy transportation and communication. The existing major challenges in the water resources sector are: climate change, decrease of level and flow of waters, tragedy of river-eroded people, reduction of navigability of rivers due to deposit of continuously silting, loss of effectiveness of old projects, sufferings of coastal people due to ineffectiveness of structures caused by frequent cyclone and tidal surge along the coast line, increase of salinity and stagnancy of water in the southern area and non-inclusion of much awaited Ganga Barrage Construction project in the Annunal Development Plan. BWDB is trying hard to face all these challenges successfully. [Md. Abu Taher Khandakar]