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Water security is prerequisite to economic growth, sustainable dev

Faruque Hassan | August 29, 2017 12:00:00

Many of us may not be aware of the fact that the World Water Day is an annual event observed on March 22 as a means of focusing attention to the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. So, let's commit to not wasting a single drop of water, today, tomorrow and the rest of time.

Historically known as a riverine country, Bangladesh has more than 700 rivers, tributaries and different forms of wetlands. The correlation between water and economy in Bangladesh is very intense from the beginning of civilisation on this soil. Industrialisation and urbanisation also developed here surrounding inland and sea ports. In the history of Bangladesh, water comes in the form of flood, disaster and even as means of communication. Culturally, the people of this area are never aware of water crisis and it is not treated as a scarce resource.

The water table in and around Dhaka is depleting 1 to 2 metres every year due to heavy urbanisation and industrialisation! Though ground water is not a problem for the whole country, the unplanned extraction of ground water in Bangladesh is dangerous for its future sustainability. Considering the importance of water resource conservation, sustainable consumption has been identified as one of the major goals in the list of 17 SDGs. Ensuring water security has already been identified as a key area of concern for the RMG and textile industry of Bangladesh.

Both the industry and the major buyers have showed significant concern over ensuring water resource for the days to come. Bangladesh is now standing at a takeoff phase and aspiring to be a middle-income country by 2021 while RMG and textile will be playing a major role as it is the main engine of our economic growth. No significant hydro-economic studies have yet been done to see whether we have enough water to reach our strategic goals in future.

Bangladesh government has taken the issue of water security very seriously for which the Bangladesh Water Act 2013 was published and major policies are also in hand. The government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Netherlands on Bangladesh Delta plan 2100. The Water Resource Group 2030 (WRG 2030) is a cosignatory of the MoU.

The WRG 2030 is working through a water Multi Stakeholder Platform (MSP) that includes the government, private sector and civil society with an aim to come up with some transformations in the industry, agriculture and municipal sector and ensure water security by demand-side efficiency measures, improve surface water quality through wastewater treatment and promote integrated water resources management. During the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2017 in Davos, Switzerland, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asserted commitment of her government to the WRG 2030 in Bangladesh. Private sector, too, is very committed to the platform, which is being steered by a high-level National Steering Board where the BGMEA is an important member.

Prior to its involvement in the WRG 2030, BGMEA introduced the Bangladesh Water PaCT (Partnership for Cleaner Textile) programme which is being implemented in around 200 wet processing units of the RMG industry that has helped successfully reduce water consumption of 18.4 billion litres per annum in the intervened factories. Another pilot project named 'TREES' has been jointly implemented by BGMEA and PSES, GIZ, and introduced in around 17 SMEs.

A textile sustainability platform (TSP) has been established to provide policy suggestion to the government towards ensuring sustainable growth of the industry. A textile technology business centre (TTBC), first of its kind, has been established at the BGMEA to help its member factories in disseminating information about environment-friendly and resource-efficient technology and the best practices. The TTBC also organises seminars on cleaner production, green factories etc.

In recent years, Bangladesh's RMG sector showed remarkable success in the area of green industry. Till the date, 67 factories obtained LEED Certification from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), of which four of the factories achieved the highest rating in industrial category even across the whole world while 13 others are Platinum and 20 are Gold Certified. A total of 220 more factories are in the pipeline for LEED certification.

Most of the garments manufacturers are now concerned about effluent treatment plant (ETP) while many NGOs are coming forward for waste water treatment for recycling and reuse of water as 72 per cent water consumption takes place in the chemical processing of textiles. Directly throwing the waste water to field or having linkage with rivers and water-logging causes a serious damage to the water, environment and creatures. ETP can be used to achieve certain standard from waste water before releasing wastes in to the environment or any other sources.

For better service and with concern for our environment, some NGOs are operating Mobile Water Treatment service around Dhaka, where on-call basis water treatment can be provided and necessary suggestion and remarks can be given for making standardised water quality that is reusable and environment-friendly.

Rainwater harvesting, hazardous chemical management, use of daylights, energy-efficient LED lights, reuse and recycling of processed water and so many other things are being practiced by the industry beyond compliance. Some significant developments have already been achieved in Bangladesh, yet we have a lot more to do. Sustainability is not a standalone game - rather it is a shared responsibility for all the parties involved. Changing attitude is definitely a long call, but it has to be started, the good thing is it has started rolling in the right direction.

Faruque Hassan is the Senior Vice-President, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA).

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