Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said only the judicious settlement of disputes and management of water resources could resolve the global conflicts over water.
“Through the ages water has led to human conflicts all over the world. Some are still going on. Only judicious settlement of access to and management of water resources is the solution to these conflicts, and for peace,” she said underlining the need for water management frameworks and knowledge-sharing networks for cooperation.
The prime minister was addressing the inaugural function of the second Asia-Pacific Water Summit held at the International Convention and Exhibition Centre Commemorating His Majesty’s 7th Cycle Birthday Anniversary (CMICE) in Chiang Mai, reports UNB.
Hasina said human security constitutes of food, energy, and water security. “And, that there exists an increasing inequality in access to water and sanitation.”
The situation is worsening due to the precarious state of the rivers and the wetlands, the premier said, adding that in South Asia, water security is challenged by booming population, unplanned and rapid urbanisation, pollution and over-extraction of ground water. Climate change is aggravating the situation even more.
“The competing use of water can no longer be seen in isolation. They need to be balanced so that our individual and collective development and the quality of life of billions of people, especially the poor, continue to improve,” she told her audience.
Mentioning that rising investment and consumption are transforming landscapes and lifestyle in this region, she said Asia accounts for 60% of the seven billion world population and by 2030, the Asia-Pacific region will have a gap of up to 40%, between the demand for and supply of water.
She said more than three-fourth of the Asia-Pacific countries are facing serious water security situation.
The PM said Bangladesh should play its role in ensuring that access to water stay a guarded right for humanity and nature to sustain life on Earth.
Highlighting some critical areas that deserve urgent action, she said national development planning must include improving agricultural water productivity, achieving energy objectives, and satisfying the growing industrial water requirements in an integrated manner.
To properly address these challenges, the prime minister said, there is a need for moving beyond the limits of intellectual property rights. This is critical for collaboration in development and transfer of technology, she added.
“For countries like Bangladesh, lack of access to technology often limits us in creating lifesaving options; effective tackling of arsenic contamination of groundwater; successful harvesting of rainwater and recycling of waste water. Access to water-related technologies is essential to accomplish “green economy” in the post Rio+20 World,” she added.
The PM further said the management of water is a governance challenge as well. “Bangladesh has been successful in the development of thousands of small scale water user cooperatives at the grassroots. They’ve shown water governance and management can be improved through local, homegrown initiatives.”
Besides, Hasina said, water is precious and the flowing rivers have contributed to economic growth, social development, social and cultural roots, political stability and determined cross-border engagements.
“While sharing trans-boundary river water is complex, Bangladesh and India had agreed on long term water sharing of the River Ganges. For equitable sharing of water of other trans-boundary rivers, and to secure river basins and ecosystems, South Asian states are working on agreements and joint governing institutions,” she told the function.
In Asia, Hasina said, more than one-tenth of the global population lives in coastal areas on a meter or less above sea level. In Bangladesh, one-fifth of its land area exists and 30 million of its people live in such a state.
She also said in countries like Bangladesh where land is scarce, “We need to improve the efficiency of water use in cropping, in production and in processing. We also need to develop varieties of rice and cereals that are less dependent on water but tolerant to the existing stress,”
Since water security is a growing worldwide concern, the premier said 2013 is being observed as the “Year of International Cooperation on Water”.
Citing a recent ADB study she said although the Asia-Pacific Region has become an economic powerhouse, there is no singe developing country that could be considered as water secure in the entire region.
Sheikh Hasina said water and human rights are linked, and sustainability of water resources is vital for economic, environmental and social benefits. “The right to water is primary and not derived.”
She said that the United Nations and the Human Rights Council have pronounced the right to access water and sanitation.
"In the post-2015 Development Agenda, therefore, universal coverage of water supply and sanitation, on the basis of non-discrimination and equity, should be a key development goal."
Hasina said water is life, water is common and water is wealth are not mere rhetoric, rather these are borne through ages in Bangladesh out of conviction in everyday life in the cities and villages.
Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Dr Plodprasop Suraswadi made the introductory remarks and summary of technical workshops/ focus area sessions while Thai Premier Yingluch Shinawatra gave the opening remarks and keynote address on ‘Disaster and Response : Thailand’s Action and Commitment to Water and Flood Management for the Future”
President of the 67th Session of the UNGA Vuk Jeremic delivered the keynote address.
Among the heads of state and government, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah, President of the Republic of Fiji, Epeli Nailatikau and President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, among others, spoke on the occasion.
President of the Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF) Yoshiro Mori, Executive Secretary, Under Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms Noeleen Heyzer and ADB President Takehiko Nakao also addressed the session.