Background About Our Work in Bangladesh

About Bangladesh

The People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a country in South Asia bordered by India, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan. Bangladesh is the world’s eighth-most populous country, with over 160 million people, and it is one of the most densely populated countries.

Recognizing water as a critical resource for basic human needs, economic development and a healthy eco-system, the current government has increased focus on integrated management of water resources in the country. This resulted in the adoption of the Bangladesh Water Act 2013 and a strong interest on the Multi-Stakeholder approach to water resources management as advocated by the 2030 WRG. 2030 WRG has co-signed the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (BDP 2100) MoU along with the Government of Bangladesh, Government of Netherlands, World Bank and IFC. Bangladesh is the largest delta of the world and the BDP 2100 aims is to realize a sustainable, long term strategy and plan, agreed with all stakeholders, for an optimum level of water safety and food security as well as economic growth.

Water Challenges

Located downstream of three large basins – the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Meghna –, Bangladesh faces immense challenges in the water sector due to population increase, land use changes, upstream withdrawal of water, economic development and climate change. Bangladesh gets more than 90 percent of its water from transboundary rivers originating in India and China. The volume of water reaching Bangladesh is under pressure from the enormous population of the neighboring states, limiting the flow of water downstream, constraining surface water availability and impacting groundwater availability.

Surface water pollution, seasonal variability of surface water, and the largely flat geography of the country have resulted in a major dependence on groundwater resources. However, arsenic, salinity, and pollution levels are increasing, compounded by sharp declines in the groundwater table, as steep as 2 to 5 meters every year, in some parts of the country. This poses a threat to sustainability and reliability of groundwater use. The country’s growth forecast predicts doubling of domestic demand by 2030, a 200 percent increase in industrial water demand, and over 46 percent increase in irrigation water demand. It is apparent that the demand for water will exceed available groundwater resources, the main source of water supply, by 40 percent in the dry seasons in a business-as-usual scenario by 2030.

The collective impact of urbanization and environmental degradation is particularly visible in the Greater Dhaka area, a major engine of growth and prosperity for the national economy, spurring widespread concerns over the sustainability not only of Dhaka’s water resources but also of Bangladesh’s economy. Of particular concern, also, is the Ganga Brahmaputra Meghna Delta, Asia’s largest delta and home to over 200 million people. Recent catchment developments, as well as population and economic growth have had a profound impact on the fragile delta’s eco-system rendering it highly vulnerable to a growing risk of coastland flooding, wetland loss, shoreline retreat and loss of infrastructure.

These challenges are exacerbated by legislative gaps, policy overlaps, and sometimes inadequate institutional capacity, which make it extremely difficult to govern the country’s water resources.