Water Resources Management

Water Resources Management aims at managing the tasks required to generate water and produce water related goods and services for the benefits of the society as a whole. It includes physical intervention, related financial management, institutional arrangement, legislation, and regulations.

Water Resources System (WRS) consists of various components of the natural system, human made infrastructure, and the institutional arrangements to regulate and control the availability and access of users to these components.

In Bangladesh agriculture is the principal economic activity and the main user of water. Water also has domestic, commercial and industrial use. The in-stream flows and water storage support fisheries, forestry, navigation, pollution control, salinity control, nature conservation and recreational facilities. The natural subsystems of WRS of the country are: (a) the inter-linked system of rivers, estuaries, canals, khals etc; (b) the floodplain; (c) wetlands; (d) haors, baors, beels, lakes; (e) ponds; (f) inter tidal lands and water; and (g) groundwater aquifers

Water management issues and challenges Water resources management in Bangladesh faces immense challenges of resolving diverse problems and issues. The most critical of these are floods in the wet season and the scarcity of water in the dry season, ever expanding water needs of a growing economy and population, supply of safe drinking water and sanitation, arsenic problem, water pollution, massive river sedimentation and river bank erosion. There is a growing need for maintaining the ecosystems particularly in the fish resources and wetlands. The water management is increasingly facing challenges of exogenous developments of a global nature, such as climate change and sea level rise, as well as of upstream river basin development beyond the border of the country. Also there is the issue of competitive demand of various water uses.

Major studies The most important reports/documents which have guided the government policy on the water resources sector are: (i) Water and Power Development in East Pakistan: Report of United Nations Technical Assistance Mission, 1957 (Krug Mission Report); (ii) East Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority Master Plan 1964 (EPWAPDA 1964 Master Plan); (iii) International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) Review of EPWAPDA 1964 Master Plan, 1966; (iv) Land and Water Resources Sector Study, Bangladesh, IBRD, 1972; (v) National Water Plan Phase-I, MPO, 1986; (vi) National Water Plan Phase-II, MPO, 1991; (vii) The Flood Action Plan, FPCO, 1989-95; and (viii) The Bangladesh Water and Flood Management Strategy FPCO, 1995.

The Krug Mission Report, 1957 was a product of a study on flood control and water management in East Pakistan after the disastrous floods of 1954, 1955 and 1956 that drew world attention. The most significant recommendation of the report was to create a new government corporation with comprehensive responsibilities and authorities to deal with all water and power development problems. Following the recommendation, East Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority was created in 1959.

The EPWAPDA 1964 Master Plan was designed to meet the agricultural demand of water through large-scale public sector development and water management in both dry season (irrigation) and wet season (flooding). The Master Plan identified 63 water development projects and grouped them according to geographic locations. Major outcomes of the plan were the initiation of the process of national level water sector planning and the eventual implementation of large-scale Flood Control Drainage (FCD) and Flood Control, Drainage and Irrigation (FCDI) projects including the protection of most coastal zones against tidal flooding.

IBRD Mission reviewed the EPWAPDA 1964 Master Plan in 1966 and the report agreed with the general principles regarding the importance of flood control, drainage and irrigation. The report, however, expressed reservations on the suggested strategy and specific proposals of the plan. The IBRD review of 1964 Master Plan played an important role in taking decision by many donor agencies for not to finance large, complex and long gestation schemes.

IBRD Report on Land and Water Resources, Bangladesh, 1972 emphasised the need for quick results from water development efforts to achieve food grain self-sufficiency. It attached high priority to small and medium sized, simple, low cost, labour intensive projects. Such schemes would involve low embankments and gravity drainage. It also proposed low lift pump irrigation and tubewell irrigation. The government, however, did not accept the study as a whole but its water development strategy was greatly influenced by its findings and recommendations.

The National Water Plan (NWP) was formulated in 1986 by the Master Plan Organisation (MPO) created in 1983. In its first phase, the NWP identified 15 modes of development for the water sector with analysis in four major categories such as FCD (flood control, and gravity drainage), irrigation (major and minor irrigation), FCDI (flood control, drainage and irrigation), and additional modes. The investment priorities set by NWP included (a) minor irrigation schemes such as low lift pump (LLP), shallow tubewells (STWs); (b) major irrigation schemes (FCDI); (c) deep tubewells (DTW); and (d) flood control and drainage scheme (FCD).

Master Plan Organisation prepared the National Water Plan Phase-II in 1991. It updated NWP-I with a detailed investment programme and a list of projects. The 20-year (1991-2010) public investment programme gave more emphasis to FCD. Although the government did not formally accept the NWP reports, the NWP had in its two phases, made important contributions to the knowledge and understanding of the water resources of Bangladesh. The NWP data provided the basis for subsequent water sector planning.

After the disastrous floods of 1987 and 1988, the attention of the government of Bangladesh, as well as its development partners was once again focussed to floods in the country, especially in its urban areas. The Flood Plan Co-ordination Organisation (FPCO) was created in 1989 and it undertook 26 studies under a common umbrella known as the Flood Action Plan (FAP). Noteworthy among the features of FAP were (a) the attention to urban FCD and non-structural flood proofing, though agriculture remained the main focus of regional plans; and (b) emphasis on social and environmental impact, effect on fisheries, and people's participation in flood control and water management.

The report titled The Bangladesh Water and Flood Management Strategy (BWFMS), 1995' was a follow-up to FAP and became the working policy document for the water sector that presented a framework for the development and implementation of specific programmes in water sector. It recommended a 5-year programme involving (a) preparation of National Water Policy; (b) preparation of a national water management plan; (c) strengthening of water sector organisations responsible for planning, construction, operation and maintenance; and (d) implementation of a portfolio of high priority projects.

Policy on Strategic framework The government declared the National Water Policy (NWPo) in 1999. The six national goals of the NWPo were economic development, poverty alleviation, food security, public health and safety, a decent standard of living for the people, and protection of the national environment. The other related government policies that have direct bearing on water sector are the National Environment Policy 1992, National Forestry Policy 1994, National Energy Policy 1996, National Policy for Safe Water Supply and Sanitation 1998, National Fisheries Policy 1998, National Agriculture Policy 1999, and Industrial Policy 1999.

Water Rights and Laws Ownership of surface and groundwater rests with the state. There are many legislation relating to water sector, some dating back over a century. The list includes the Irrigation Act 1876, Embankment and Drainage Act 1952, Bangladesh Water and Power Development Boards Order 1972, Irrigation Water Rate Ordinance 1983, Groundwater Management Ordinance 1985, Water Resources Planning Act 1992, Environment Conservation Act 1995, Water Supply and Sewerage Authority Act 1996, Environment Conservation Rules 1997, Environment Court Act 1999, Bangladesh Water Development Board Act 2000, and Urban Water Body Protection Law 2001.

International treaties and protocols In 1996, Bangladesh and India signed a thirty year agreement regarding sharing of the Ganges water. This is the only existing agreement between the two countries regarding sharing of the water of their 54 common rivers. Bangladesh is a signatory to the following international protocols which has implications on environmental aspects of water resources: (a) Agenda 21, the 1992 Rio Convention on Biological Diversity; (b) the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, applies in Bangladesh to the Sundarbans and parts of the Haor Basin (Tanguar Haor), the only such sites at present in Bangladesh; (c) the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; (d) the 1972 Convention on the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites; (e) the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; (f) the 1954 International Convention for Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil; (g) the Marine Pollution Conventions; and (h) the Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes.

Institutional setting At present, the agencies or organisations which have relevant functions in water sector are of four categories: (a) government agencies; (b) local government institutions; (c) other organisations and the private sector; and (d) development partners. The government agencies include 13 ministries and 35 organisations, the most important among which are the Ministry of Water Resources, Bangladesh Water Development Board, Water Resources Planning Organisation (WARPO), Joint Rivers Commission, River Research Institute, Surface Water Modeling Centre, Bangladesh Haor and Wetland Development Board, Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation, Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, Local Government Engineering Department, Department of Public Health Engineering, Dhaka Water Supply and Sanitation Authority, Chittagong Water Supply and Sanitation Authority, Ministry of Environment and Forest, Department of Environment, Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Inland Water Transport, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Department of Fisheries, and Disaster Management Bureau.

The local government institutions are the Paurashava (municipalities) and the Parishads (councils, mainly the upazila parishads). The category 'Other Organisations and Private Sector' includes community based organisations, non-government organisations, cooperatives, and private sector organisations and institutions. Noted among the development partners are the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme and numerous bilateral development agencies of countries such as Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, UK, and Canada.

Participatory water management The National Water Policy directed that 'Stakeholder involvement should be an integral part of water resources management at all stages of the project cycle'. Stakeholder institutions (water users group) were established within FCD areas of BWDB, based on drainage blocks or chawks. LGED, DPHE, Barind Multipurpose Development Project also formed water user groups in different names. The institutional framework in which the local stakeholders are to participate is known as the Water Management Organisation (WMO) comprising the Water Management Group (WMG), Water Management Association (WMA) and Water Management Federation (WMF). WMOs are registered under the Cooperative Societies Act 1986.

Water sector projects and interventions The traditional approach to water resources system management in Bangladesh has been based on structural interventions in flood control, drainage and irrigation. Recently increasing emphasis is given to other kinds of management interventions such as flood warning system, flood proofing and adopting responses to hazardous conditions. Following are the different types of direct water sector interventions implemented in the country:

Rural FCD inland and coastal embankments and polders; regulators; small-scale FCD; river training, bank protection and river dredging.

Urban FCD town protection schemes, embankments, regulators, pumps etc.

Minor/small-scale irrigation public sector force mode tubewells (both deep and shallow), rubber dams; and khal re-excavation.

Major/large-scale irrigation pumps, irrigation canal network, drainage canal network, barrages, etc.

Flood proofing homestead raising and construction of flood refuges.

Flood warning systems flood/disaster forecasting and warning, preparedness and management.

Water supply and sanitation piped water supply using both surface and groundwater in big cities, sanitation services in big cities etc and hand tubewells for drinking water in rural areas.

Dredging augmentation of river flows and for navigation purposes.

Cyclone protection embankments, cyclone shelters etc.

Hydropower generation embankments, dams, river training, power house etc.

National Water Management Plan (NWMP) The draft NWMP was prepared by WARPO in 2001. The plan is to be updated every five years. The plan identified 84 programmes, which are grouped both into eight sub sectoral clusters, as well as eight planning regions. The eight sub clusters are the Institutional Development, Enabling Environment, Main Rivers, Towns and Rural Areas, Major Cities, Disaster Management, Agriculture and Water Management, and Environment and Aquatic Resources. The eight planning regions are South West Region, North East Region, North Central Region, Northwest Region, South Central Region, South East Region, Eastern Hills Region, and Rivers and Estuary Region. Priority is given to the institutional development, enabling environment, and water supply and sanitation. The estimated investment cost of the plan over 25 years is Tk 91,457 crore ($18 billion). [HS Mozaddad Faruque]

Bibliography Ministry of Water Resources, National Water Policy, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, 1999; EGIS, Guidebook for Integrated Water Resources Management: Concepts and Tools (Draft Version), Dhaka, 2001; Water Resources Planning Organisation (WARPO), Draft Final National Water Management Plan, Vol-1 and 2, WARPO, Dhaka, 2001.