Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources in Bangladesh

M. Kamruzzaman Shadhin :
Bangladesh is one of the top listed vulnerable countries worldwide due to global climate change. Due to its geographic location, Bangladesh stands with low elevation from the sea level, a high density of population and a dependency on nature. The country has passed some disastrous climate events which destroyed many development gains as well as killed millions of lives.
Bangladesh is a riverine country where 58 cross-border rivers and 750 inland rivers are crisscrossed all over the country. Adverse impacts of climate change are irregular monsoon, untimely rainfall, landslide, waterlogging, floods, drought, salinity of water, erosion, crops damage and water transmitted diseases.
One-fifth of the total land of Bangladesh is flooded every year. Coastal as well as inland flooding is increasing every year. In 1954, 1974, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1998, 2004 and 2007 Bangladesh faced the most devasted floods in history. This vulnerability to flooding is exacerbated by the fact that Bangladesh is a low-lying deltaic country on the Bay of Bengal.
Bangladesh National Management Plan (NWMP) focused that by the year 2025, around 3575 km2 area of land will be lost to the erosion of major rivers like Brahmaputra, Padma, Jamuna and Meghna. The intensity (wind-speed) of the Bay of Bengal since 1970 shows a gradual increase. There has a correlational connectivity between sea surface temperature and tropical cyclone intensity. The continuous increase of wind flow causes serious damage to people and the natural ecosystem of Bangladesh.
In the last 60 years, Bangladesh faced 24 drought events. Most often moderate and severe droughts normally spread over the northern and western parts of the country. Due to drought more than 3.5 million hectares of crops land are affecting severely. The country faced mild famine almost for 11 drought events. Experts opine that by the years 2030 to 2050 sea level will rise at least 30cm to 50cm. If sea level rises by 25cm, then at least 40% of the Sundarbans mangrove forest will be submerged and in case of 60cm rise, the entire Sundarbans will disappear.
Water availability is also affected by severe climate change, even sometimes pure water is also not easily accessible for village or urban people. Climate-related problems such as floods, cyclones or storms mix water with pollutants which previously existed in non-pollution sources. For example, in 2007 a severe cyclone named SIDR badly damaged the coastal areas and nearly 6,000 sweet water ponds were contaminated with seawater in Bangladesh.
Proper yields of crop depend on irrigation but due to drying up many rivers, irrigation is now not easy to get in many areas of the country. Hundred of rivers of Bangladesh are almost dried and drying up due to climate change. This situation resulted in shrinking of navigation facilities and every year inland water transport facility aggravated very rampantly. Bangladesh is always at risk of health problems due to climate change. Climate change and water-related diseases are interconnected. As a result, water-born diseases such as Malaria, Dengue, Fever, Cholera, Diarrheal and malnutrition are very common in Bangladesh which are connected with temperature rise, heavy rainfall, flood or droughts.
Coastal Zone Policy (CZP) 2005 and National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA) 2005 suggest taking proper action to supply sweet and edible water to inhabitants who are living in vulnerable areas and adapt action for agriculture with the saline water. But this law has been failed to cover some other areas of Bangladesh such as Rajshahi (drought zone), Sylhet (haor and flash flood zone) and Hill tracts districts (water shortage zone) which are also affected.
The National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA) also recognizes flood, drought, cyclone and storm surge, SLR and salinity intrusion as climate-related hazards. But it doesn’t adequately emphasize on the riverbank erosion, which is now one of the major hazards of the country. Bangladesh needs to build cooperation with its border countries to combat climate changes by jointly defining regional and trans-boundary climate-related problems and taking action plans accordingly.
The government has to take immediate steps for comprehensive disaster management control, relevant research and knowledge sharing, strong capacity building and awareness programmes, setting up more cyclone shelters and drainage systems. Despite taking different actions to meet the challenges of climate change, it also needs to concentrate on the prevention of the causes of climate change. The government should take different plans and other embodiment actions to mitigate carbon emissions.
To mitigate climate change, measures should be taken as mainstream development policies by the government. In this regard, private and public policies can strengthen the water resource sector. It should emphasis on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) to fight climate change.

(Kamruzzaman Shadhin is Barrister-at-Law, Advocate, Supreme Court
of Bangladesh).