PM seeks comprehensive global efforts for water management

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today sought comprehensive global efforts for water management, urging world leaders to prioritise the water issues in their policies and actions, laying out a seven-point agenda involving the scarce resource.

"We must work together (for water management) and act now . . . Bangladesh is committed to playing its role in this regard," she told the opening of Water Summit-2016 at Hungarian capital of Budapest drawing heads of state and government of different countries.

The Bangladesh premier particularly laid emphasis on charting out an appropriate policy on sharing trans-boundary waters saying "effective management of trans-boundary river water is very important" referring to the importance of water in the traditional life of the downstream deltaic country.

"Scarcity is not the main cause for persisting water crisis but the problem is also linked with equitable distribution," she said but acknowledged sharing of cross-border streams as a "complex issue".

Sheikh Hasina, a member of UN High Level Panel on Water (HLPW), laid out the seven-point agenda being the head of government of riverine Bangladesh, criss-crossed by 230 rivers, 54 being cross-boundary ones.

"Water occupies a central place to our culture, ethos, lives and livelihoods," she said.

The premier said actions based on her proposed seven-point agenda might help attain the goals adopted by the High Level Panel on Water during the UN General Assembly in last September.

As the first point of her agenda, Sheikh Hasina said water should be the integral part of any development endeavor at national, regional and global level as "Agenda 2030 have sufficiently articulated the inter-linkages and interfaces between water and wider sustainable development architecture".

Secondly, she said, special focus needs to be paid to people or group who is usually left behind as millions of people around the world face difficulties to access safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

As the third point of her proposal, the premier "urgently" sought to build resilience to water related disasters "as water is one area where climate vulnerable countries are intensely challenged".

"Fourth, effective management of trans-boundary river water is very important as scarcity is not the main cause for persisting water crisis but the problem is also linked with equitable distribution," she said.

As the next point of the agenda, Sheikh Hasina said since water is extensively used for agricultural development and food security, "efforts should continue to develop less water-intensive varieties of crops and water efficient technologies".

Sixth, she said, every country needs to share with each other our 'light-house initiatives' to further develop our knowledge, capacity, skill and technique in terms of development and efficient use of water resources.

"And finally, a global fund on water is absolutely important to support research, innovation, technology transfer to realize the water related gals and targets," she said.

Sheikh Hasina arrived Budapest yesterday at the invitation of Hungarian President Janos Ader to join the three-day Budapest Water Summit 2016 which began here today with the theme "Water Connects".

Ader inaugurated the Summit while a video message of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was delivered.

President of Mauritius and vice-chair of HLPW Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, Archbishop of Constantinople Bartholomew, President of UN General Assembly Peter Thomson, Chief Financial Officer and Managing Director of The World Bank Group Joaquim Vieira Ferreira Levy and President of the World Water Council Benedito Braga spoke, among others, on the occasion.

The prime minister feared water scarcity may intensify inequality within and among nations in view of growing population, rapid and unplanned industrialization and unbanization.

"Proper water management would not merely eliminate inequality in access to water resources, but would also help bring peace, stability and security to the society as water has been the roots of many tension and conflicts across the world," she said.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh showed the success of cooperation with neighbouring India two decades ago by striking a long-term agreement on the common Ganges Water.

"Sub-regional cooperation on waters among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal is also on the right track," she said.

The premier called water the origin and sustainer of life and fundamental to social development, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.

So, Bangladesh is fully committed to ensuring safe drinking water for all and improved sanitation for its population by the year 2021," she said.

Pointing out Bangladesh's success in achieving MDG target for safe water and sanitation, the prime minister said being a most "climatically vulnerable" countries, Bangladesh has been carrying out series of measures to address the adversities which has already drawn global attention.

"Bangladesh faces unique challenges - abundance in water during monsoon and scarcity of water during dry season ... Bangladesh's vulnerability has been increased further due to its dependence on surface water originates from the outside of its border, she said.

The premier extended her thanks to Hungary government for organizing the Summit on water, saying Budapest always plays an important role in global water discourse.

"We acknowledge the contributions of the Budapest Water Summit-2013 that eventually gave the basis for water related SDGs," she said.

Later, the Bangladesh premier along with the Hungarian president and other dignitaries visited "Sustainable Water Solutions Expo".

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)