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Not a drop to drink

  • Published at 07:06 pm December 25th, 2016
  • Last updated at 05:09 pm December 26th, 2016
Not a drop to drink

With water at the very core of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it not only bears strong linkages to all of the other SDGs, it also underpins them -- the meeting of goal six of the SDGs would go a long way towards achieving much of the 2030 Agenda.

Ensuring universal access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030 requires that we invest in adequate infrastructure, provide water facilities, and encourage affordability at every level. Protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems such as forests, mountains, wetlands, and rivers is essential if we wish to mitigate water scarcity.

More international cooperation is also needed to encourage water efficiency and support treatment technologies in developing countries. These targets have been agreed by all countries but are applicable to all countries (lower, lower-middle, middle, and high income), and individual countries are expected to use them as a reference when developing their own national targets.

In Bangladesh, the supply of clean and uncontaminated water has fallen far short of demand due to inadequate flows in the major rivers, pollution caused by disposal of effluents and chemicals, salinity intrusion in the coastal areas, and arsenic contamination.

The incidence of both flood and drought in a yearly cycle profoundly affects rivers’ streams.

Ensuring universal access to safe drinking water for all by 2030 requires that we invest in adequate infrastructure, provide water facilities, and encourage affordability at every level. Protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems is essential if we have to mitigate water scarcity

Withdrawal of surface water in the upstream reduces the groundwater level in Bangladesh and increases the salinity of the shallow aquifers in the coastal regions as well. Experiencing the changed rainfall pattern due to climate change makes it defective in agriculture and other uses.

Yet, small inland water bodies, like ponds, are still being used as fisheries, and are still being contaminated by salinity in the coast.

Overall water management for a country like Bangladesh has become a burning concern. We need to enhance the protection of our water bodies through collaboration, networking, and awareness-raising initiatives, promoting safe drinking water supply and management, undertaking relevant research, enhancing our own technical capacity to ensure quality water services, all with the active participation of relevant stake-holders.

In Bangladesh, there are many inter-related reasons and challenges when it comes to sustainability in the field of potable water supply. Both the government and the private sector are trying to cope with the challenges, promoting demand-responsive, context-specific, and affordable water supply options, all the while combating challenges in the difficult-to-reach areas of rural and urban settings to contribute in achieving the national goal.

However, the promotion of sustainable technological options for different disadvantaged and unreached areas needs special emphasis.

Technological innovation in adaptation to climate change hazards and in terms of the feasibility of geo-physical characteristics has appeared to be an urgent need.

Capacity-building initiatives need to be further emphasised to maintain water supply facilities efficiently, through proper responsibilities by the respective communities in partnership with and among the local governments.

Capacity-building of private entrepreneurs for coming up with state-of-the-art technologies for water supply remains a major thrust.

Besides, social mobilisation and equity need to be addressed, ensuring involvement and accountability among the community, local governments, and the government to provide safe water for all.

Md Ashik Sarder is a development practitioner and researcher at UNDP.

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