Water experts have stressed the need for using surface water in agriculture to save groundwater as the global climate change will emerge as a threat to the country’s water sector in the coming days.
“About 80 percent of irrigation water now comes from underground sources. Although we’ve huge surface water, we hardly explore it,” director general of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) M Azizul Haque told a workshop in the morning.
He said arsenic contamination in aquifer is on the rise due to overexploitation of groundwater, and if the trend continues, arsenic will enter the food chain, creating a new health hazard.
Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) and Institute of Water Modeling (IWM) jointly organized the workshop, titled ‘Establishment of Monitoring Network and Mathematical Model Study to Assess Salinity Intrusion in Groundwater in Coastal Area of Bangladesh due to Climate Change’, at Biam auditorium in the city.
Water Resources senior secretary Sheikh Altaf Ali, IWM executive director Prof Dr M Monowar Hossain, IWM deputy executive director Dr AFM Azfal Hossain and BWDB deputy director Dr Anwar Zahid, among others, spoke at the workshop.
Altaf Ali said access to safe drinking water is the first right of people and study must be carried out to identify how safe water is reserved in aquifer. “We can’t provide water to irrigation without preserving drinking water for people…we may innovate drought-tolerant varieties.”
The country’s coastal belt is the most vulnerable to climate change, he said but the water resource is the most vulnerable in this region.
“If we can’t preserve minimum drinking water for those living in coastal belt, millions of them will migrate to other places, creating a new economic crisis. So, we can’t destroy our groundwater anyway.” Altaf Ali said,
IWM executive director Prof Monowar Hossain said since Bangladesh depends on the water of its trans-boundary rivers, the country’s southwestern region faces crisis each year for lack of water. “If we have strong data base on water, we’ll be able to know how much water is available in the country,” he said.
Monitoring the quality of groundwater is very complex, Prof Monowar said IWM has made a model to assess the groundwater quality.