More and severe floods are likely in Bangladesh and India due to climate change, says a UN study published on March 21.
The UN report titled "World Water Development Report 2020" said apart from flooding, Bangladesh will also be the country worst hit by droughts due to increased concentration of pollutants and low-quality groundwater sources.
The report began by saying that climate will continue to change, affecting societies mainly through water, and "will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water for basic human needs, threatening the effective enjoyment of the human rights to water and sanitation for potentially billions of people".
"Collaboration on information-sharing has long provided an important anchor for broader collaboration on transboundary issues -- as for example between Bangladesh and India on flooding -- and climate change is likely to increase the imperative for this," the report read.
The report said intense monsoon in August 2017 affected 40 million people in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, claiming nearly 1,300 lives and putting 1.1 million people in relief camps.
"Floods could cost South Asia as much as $215 billion each year by 2030. Floods are also expected to contaminate water sources, destroy water points and sanitation facilities, and therefore pose a challenge to universal access to sustainable water and sanitation services," it observed.
"The frequency of floods has increased over time. The important point is the timing of the floods -- we now see floods early in the year as well as late in the year," Brac University Prof Emeritus Ainun Nishat told The Daily Star yesterday, adding that India and Bangladesh have been sharing data on water levels of rivers, including flood forecasting.
Climate change and increasing demand for water will stress the region's groundwater resources, as the availability of surface water is affected by increasing climate variability. Groundwater use in the region could increase by 30 percent by 2050, the report said.
Increased concentration of pollutants when conditions are drier is of concern for groundwater sources that are already of low quality in certain locations in India and Bangladesh, it added.
Bangladesh's irrigation and water supply to major cities are heavily dependent on groundwater but the groundwater is not replenished in a proper way, Nishat said.
"Groundwater is depleting and so the contamination in ground-level water will increase. But now the government is focusing on using surface water and we see that for Dhaka city, water is brought from the Meghna," he added.
The report said Bangladesh performs "medium low" in implementing the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).
"Our integrated water policy is basically geared towards supporting agriculture. We do not have any specific water plan for fisheries, environment and many other sectors. The situation is very poor in eco-system management," Nishat said.
The current national development plan recognises that Bangladesh cannot undertake meaningful water resource development programmes on its own and aims to strike new transboundary agreements, the report added.
"So far, however, a water-sharing agreement is in place for only one of its 57 transboundary rivers – the Ganges -- with India," it said.