Dhaka, 22 March :: Speakers demanded integrity should be duly considered for proper valuation of water in the webinar titled “Role of Integrity in valuing water” was held today which was Organized by Bangladesh Water Integrity Network, Change Initiative, NGO Forum for Public Health, and Water Integrity Network. The main purpose of organizing this webinar was to observe World Water Day, 2021.

The theme of World Water Day 2021 is valuing water. The value of water is much more than its economic value – water has enormous and complex value for our households, food, culture, health, education, economics, and the integrity of our natural environment. If we overlook any of these values, we risk mismanaging this finite, irreplaceable resource. Valuing water provides the basis for recognizing and considering all benefits provided by water, including their economic, social, and ecological dimensions. Internationally, valuing water has been prioritized as a global action to achieve sustainable water resources management by the United Nations and the World Bank High-Level Panel for Water.

Valuing water is difficult but it is necessary. Economically water can be a private good, a public good, and a common pool resource but hunger, urbanization, and other complex global challenges trace on these economic attributes of water, complicating valuation and management. Rather than that water also has a special cultural value, with a central role in many customs and rituals.

At the event, Ainun Nishat, a renowned Water resource and Climate Change expert was present as Chief Guest. Dr. A.K.M. Saiful Islam, Professor, IWFM, BUET presented the Keynote speech. The panel of discussant included Engineer Shahidul Hassan, President, BAWIN & Former Chief Engineer, LGED, Engineer Md. Abdullah, Managing Director, KWASA, Professor A K Enamul Haque Ph.D., Environmental Economist, Mr. S.M.A. Rashid. Executive Director. NGO Forum for Public Health and Dr. Reba Paul, Adjunct Fellow, University of Sydney. Executive Director (Honorary) of Change Initiative M Zakir Hossain Khan Moderated the event.

M Zakir Hossain Khan, Executive Director (Honorary) of Change Initiative; started the webinar by welcoming everyone and highlighted the reason behind hosting the webinar. He said on the day of World Water Day 2021 today they are hosting the webinar to highlight the current valuation scenario of water in Bangladesh. He stated that according to a survey of UNDP three-fourth of coastal population in Bangladesh is consuming polluted water every day, not only that due to the scarcity of water the children especially women of a household have to suffer much. Additionally, he said when we talk about water integrity we measure the accesses of water and availability of water. When the economic value of water is being considered integrity is linked.

Dr. A.K.M. Saiful Islam, Professor, IWFM, BUET in his keynote presentation he presented that around the world water is a scarce resource. He claimed that 2 million people lack access to safe water, 48 million people lack access to improved sanitation and 30% of the total population lives on less than sanitation in Bangladesh. He highlighted how water is being polluted and crises was intensified due to climate change and emphasized to give equal importance to both proper valuation and integrity in water sector.

Professor Emirates Ainun Nishat, Chief Guest of the webinar mentioned that the water demand has increased drastically. For this the proper uses of water, availability, and mitigating the uncertainty to get water need to be prioritized. In this matter navigation need to be a top priority and ranking must be done in terms of drinking water, food security, and equal distribution of water need to be fulfilled. Moreover, water quality must be considered in the valuation of water.

Professor A K Enamul Haque Ph.D., prominent environmental economist explains the valuation of water from an economic perspective where he mentioned that the weaker or poorer population will not be able to take the burden of the high economic value of water. He suggested that in public policy for valuation, we need to consider that who can spend how much money on water. Equity or price discrimination for different economic groups needs to be considered and evidence-based policy should be adopted.

Dr. Reba Paul, Adjunct Fellow, University of Technology Sydney, said water is a precious resource. She said water scarcity is not a problem rather poor management of water or fragmented projects to manage the water resource is the main reason for water-related problems. She said we must need to take science-based adaptive planning to mitigate the challenges and integrity is key to water resource management.

Binayak Das, Program Coordinator, Water Integrity Network has emphasized water integrity issue should be advocated with the Government of Bangladesh and  commitments are reflected in her eighth five year plan, national integrity strategy and operations of the local government.

S.M.A. Rashid. Executive Director. NGO Forum for Public Health said water has both direct and indirect value and it is a multi-sectoral issue. He suggested that to align with SDG’s goal in 2030 to protect water resources with application of the integrity management toolbox and inter-agency collaboration need to be introduced.

Engineer Md. Abdullah, Managing Director of Khulna WASA claimed that not only safe drinking water but also irrigation is very important and valuable part in water management. The main challenge in water resource management is how to meet the demand for water with limited resources. He claimed that aligning with the National Integrity Strategy Khulna WASA has introduced Integrity Management Toolbox and successfully improve the water integrity.

Engineer Shahidul Hassan, President, BAWIN & Former Chief Engineer, LGED, said in his speech that we need to control the excessive use of water and fair price of water need to determine.

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