Water security should be ensured for all citizens before it is too late
Urbanization is one of 21st century’s most transformative trends. Cities are the dominant force in sustainable economic growth, development, and prosperity in both developed and developing countries. In developed countries, the growth of the urban population has stabilized, and urbanization is taking place at a rapid pace.
Currently, 54% of the world’s population (four billion people) reside in urban areas. By 2030, two billion more people will have migrated to cities -- placing unprecedented pressure on infrastructure and resources, particularly those related to water.
In urbanization, all processes are viewed in relation to the city. Generally, better food supply, good medical care, education, jobs, industrialization, commercialization, electrification, specialization of professions, and entertainment are the basic causes of urban growth.
Accessible energy plays an important role in our development -- with this, people can enjoy all the modern facilities. By establishing road communication, an undeveloped area may be connected with a developed area. It helps the people of the areas, the use of information, technology, and media for an improved standard of living.
From 2016 to 2030, a 35% population increase is expected in the top ten megacities. Forecasts indicate cities in developing countries including Karachi, Lagos, and Dhaka will surpass cities like New York, Osaka, and Sao Paulo by 2030.
This represents a 50% increase in demand for energy and water, generating challenges that exert pressure on water resources and threaten global water security. This has a palpable effect on public health, economics, and development.
Local solutions for local problems are most suited to meet these challenges.
As more than three-quarters (76%) of the world’s mega-cities are coastal; there will be a considerable impact on water eco-systems from ridge to reef. Because of this, local and regional authorities lead initiatives targeting water-related obstacles, including housing gaps, climate change, and an increased demand for food, energy, and water.
Climate change, in particular, represents a daunting challenge for cities, as 40% of the world’s population will live in river basins under severe water stress, while 20% will risk floods by 2030. Flooding and droughts have increased globally, and the impact is devastating.
City of millions
Dhaka has a population of 14.4 million and an astounding density of 49,182 per sqkm, while Chittagong 16,613 sqkm.
Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division of UN, 2016, has mentioned the urban population status in Bangladesh: “It was 23.8% in 2000; 30.4 % in 2010 and 2016, it is now 34.9%. It can be 38% of the total population by the year 2020.”
Economically affected, socially excluded, and environmentally displaced people will join in the urban area as beggars, hotel workers, porters, day labourers, maidservants, rickshaw-pullers, petty traders etc.
It has been estimated that the urban population in Bangladesh will rise to between 91 and 102 million by 2050, which will be 44% of the total population.
Some 80% of wastes are being dumped into the rivers in Bangladesh. No wonder our water supplies are in jeopardy.
Around 250 industries are discharging chemical pollutants into the Buriganga and Sitalakhya river. Every day 4,000 tons of solid waste and 22,000 tons of tannery waste mixes with water in Buriganga river.
Different industries and their contribution to pollution in Dhaka are: Pulp and paper (47.4%), pharmaceuticals (15.9%), metals (14%), food industry (12.1%), and fertilizers/pesticides (6.6%).
In urban areas, sewage is being discharged directly into the rivers, and the low-lying parts around urban areas.
Wetlands around Dhaka city are being destroyed through land development and dumping of toxic effluents and untreated sewage.
In Bangladesh, cities have sprung up along the banks of different rivers.
Industrial effluents have totally destroyed the ecology of rivers near these large urban areas. In Dhaka, 20 canals have disappeared.
Liquid and solid wastes, and heavy metals like copper, iron, lead, and nickel are distressing the BOD, COD, DO, TDS, PH of water.
Cities across the area are already experiencing the effects of climate change.
Reacting to the rise in infrastructure, and houses visited by recent extreme weather phenomena, including air pollution, fires, and flooding, governments have repeatedly been called to be aware of the role adequate water infrastructure can play in alleviating these situations.
It is evident that responsible financing should be centred on urban areas and infrastructure in both interlinked rural and urban areas. National governments need to develop strategies to deliver and adopt integrated approaches to overcome political, financial, technological, and behavioural barriers.
Less consumption and better management are at the core of these efforts, underlining the need for improved infrastructure investment.
Shishir Reza is an Environment Analyst and Associate Member of Bangladesh Economic Association.