There may be corruption in the water resources sector, but it is not as massive as it is made out to be in public spheres, said Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud.
Speaking at a discussion in Dhaka as the chief guest on Thursday, the minister said: “It is true that there are some corruption in the construction and repair work of flood embankments, but it is not serious.”
Since the corruption occurs at small scale, it is also difficult to trace, he added.
The discussion, titled “Flood 2017: Current Situation and Necessary Actions,” was organised by policy think tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
Several water and disaster experts attended the discussion where they blamed heavy corruption in the sector for poor disaster management before and during the recent floods.
Water resource management and climate change expert Prof Ainun Nishat said some quarters engaged in heavy corruption following the flood in the name of repairing the roads and other development work.
He said the roads see heavy repair work every year, but they wear down shortly after they are repaired.
“Review the previous work to find out why every year the same places get damages during the flood,” he added.
He also urged the authorities concerned not to engage local lawmakers in the post-flood repair and development work.
Responding to the allegations, the minister said: “The [Bangladesh] Water Development Board is not an isolated organisation... it is only one cog in a huge system. They way the system runs these days, it is possible that there could be some corruption here,” he said.
The minister further said there was not any scope for corruption in the water sector because its budget was quite low.
“Out of a Tk420 crore budget, at best 10% is lost due to corruption,” he added.
Speaking about the recent flood disaster, he said: “We are not saying that we do not have irregularities, but it is true that the flood did not happen due to negligence. It happened due to excessive rain; the embankments were not even damaged.”
However, he agreed that the maintenance of the flood embankments were not adequate as the government did not allocate enough fund for maintenance.
“We have money allocated for new projects, but none for maintenance. We repair dams after they are damaged by floods. However, before flood, even if we notice any vulnerable points on the dams, we cannot do anything to fix them,” he added.
The speakers agreed that a change in attitude toward maintenance work was necessary.
CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, who chaired the discussion, said the government should also count the climate change impacts while fighting the floods, otherwise people would be affected more in coming years.
“We need the participation of the affected people in the policy-making process. Floods are not a new phenomenon. The problems that arise now should be added to the list of existing challenges to prevent and/or combat the effects of flood in future,” he said.