'Private stakeholders should come forward to tackle the cost of installing RWH systems at the individual household level'
Although plans and policies are there, there is no implantation of the law on rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems that could have met the clean water crisis in Bangladesh, experts said.
They said, on average, Bangladesh has 2000mm of rainfall every year, considered adequate to meet most domestic needs in terms of quality and quantity.
Rainwater harvesting can be a potential alternative source for tackling the acute water crisis faced by rural, urban, and industrial people, they said.
These observations came at the inaugural session of a three-day convention, "4th Bangladesh Convention on Rainwater Harvesting," organized by WaterAid Bangladesh and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), HSBC, Rain Forum, and ESTex, at a hotel in Dhaka on Thursday.
Storing and reusing rainwater will also help coastal and hill people in tackling the issue of salinity as well as reduce the excessive demands on groundwater, the major source of drinking water in Bangladesh.
The country is facing a potable or drinking water crisis amidst rapid urbanization and industrialization,the impact of climate changes, and a fast depleting groundwater level, experts said.
Speaking as chief guest at the convention, Shaid Ullah Khandaker, secretary to the Housing Ministry, said: "Rainwater can be a source of agriculture business, a source of water for dying ponds, and other water scarcity."
He said the present government has achieved tremendous success in ensuring safe water for the people of the country. "Like other countries, the government has taken several initiatives to consume groundwater as well as alternative approaches to water management."
At the 2013 convention, the government assured a funding commitment for water management and the Housing Ministry has also completed devising Bangladesh National Building code (BNBC). The code will enforce rainwater collection areas for buildings that are being built. The BNBC also advised a design and maintenance system for buildings with rainwater harvesting facilities included.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) Chairman Sultan Ahmed said: “Rajuk is already constructing 169 buildings in Uttara with rain water harvesting facilities. The government is planning to build 12,000 and 60,000 apartments in the Jhilmil and Purbachal projects respectively by 2021, with RWH facilities as a major component."
Rajuk Chief Engineer Raihanul Ferdous said: "We have initiated new steps and will publish the regulations with directives on how to set up RWH systems in households and other institutions."
Rainwater harvesting can be a way to reduce this crisis, said Zahirul Islam, additional secretary to the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development, and Co-operatives.
Presenting the keynote paper, Professor Tanvir Ahmed said: "Private stakeholders should come forward to tackle the cost of installing RWH systems at the individual household level."
With proper design and management, an RWH system can provide acceptable water quality for drinking in households and the industrial sector, in both rural and urban areas, the Buet professor said.
Islamic University of Technology (IUT) Professor Rezaul Karim said: "By collecting rainwater for reuse and recharging the fast depleting ground water sources, water scarcity can be mitigated.
"Increased resilience against climate change can also be achieved by reducing waterlogging and restoring water related ecosystems," he said.
He, however, said that there is no data or study on reliability, water saving, and the economic benefits of adopting RWH in commercial buildings inthe Dhaka city.
Mohammad Shamim Akhter, director of Building Research Institute (BRI), said: “Without policy implementation, water crisis issues cannot be resolved."
Pointing the finger at Rajuk, Iqbal Habib, general secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, said: "The regulator amended a rule on rainwater harvesting in city buildings, but failed to implement it.
"It should create awareness among building owners, with greater focus on the implementation of the rules," he said, adding that Rajuk should be held accountable for its failure.
At the daylong convention, there were two technical sessions. Six papers were presented, focusing on the potential and practices of rainwater harvesting in factories, especially with regard to RMG and textile policy. They sessions aimed to provide sustainable solutions to many of the water management issues the country is currently facing.
The convention ended with a panel discussion on the need for engineers and planners to address the design, operation, monitoring, and surveillance of RWH systems.
The panel was moderated by Shyamal Dutta, editor of Bhorer Kagoj.
Rajindra De Silva Ariyabandu, chairman of Lanka Rain Water Harvesting Forum, Brigadier General Mohammad Osman Sarwar, Chief Engineer of the Health Engineering Department, MR Kabir, Pro Vice-Chancellor of University of Asia Pacific, Goska Grabek, Chief Operating Officer of HSBC, and Abdullah Al Maher, Chief Executive Officer of Fakir Fashion, among others, spoke on the occasion.