A Knowledge sharing seminar organized by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi and Centre for Coastal Environmental Conservation, Khulna, Bangladesh
Venue: Christian Service Society, Khulna
Date: September 8, 2013
Time: 10:00 am until 5:00 pm (including lunch)
Agenda for Knowledge sharing
The Centre for Science of Environment is a public interest non-profit organization based in New Delhi. As an independent public interest research and advocacy organization, CSE aims to promote an informed public opinion in favour of environmental sustainability and sustainable development. The Organisation (for more information see www.cseindia.org) was founded in 1981 by the late Anil Agarwal, a leading figure in India’s environment movement, to analyze the relationship between environment and development.
Jointly with Centre for Coastal Environmental Conservation, Khulna, we are organizing an knowledge-sharing seminar on urban water challenges in Khulna due to the over-extraction of groundwater and the loss of water bodies. This is symptomatic of every city in South Asia today as they extract more and more groundwater to meet their thirst. Water agencies formally indulge in extraction. Households do it privately, especially when the water supply agencies fail to provide them water. One consequence is the rapid decline in urban aquifers. The situation is frightening because planners have not acknowledged this and therefore, no city has an aquifer-recharge system in place.
In India, nearly 50% of the urban water demand is met from groundwater. However, there is little reliable data on this due to poor monitoring. As a result, its sustainable management presents a formidable challenge. In addition, the quality of groundwater has steadily declined owing to gross mismanagement of waste water and solid waste.
Urban planners and managers are also guilty of the systematic destruction of urban water bodies that play a crucial part in urban water security. Across India, these ponds and lakes have been converted into real estate. Not only has this accelerated the fall in water tables, it has made cities more flood-prone.
These problems also afflict Bangladesh like South Asian countries. In the past, the cities had a close connection with their water bodies but now these have been reduced to cess pools or have been filled up and built over. Cities have forgotten their own lifeline. Everywhere, water bodies and their catchments have been encroached upon or built over by the poor and the rich alike.
Another major challenge in South Asia, especially India and Bangladesh, is the lack of rural sanitation. In India, over half of the population defecate in the open because they are too poor, as the government schemes for promoting sanitation, to afford a toilet. This affects their health and studies have proved that poor sanitation causes over 80% of all diseases and is the single biggest cause of death of children under 5. The average Indian loses about Rs 2,500 a year to water-borne diseases. But this is a problem that can be easily fixed.
However, Bangladesh is streets ahead. Nearly 90% households have access to improved toilets and just 2.5% defecate in the open. This is a phenomenal improvement over the 1970s, when just 1.5% of the houses had sanitary latrines. However, poverty and natural disasters affect the percentage of people actually using these facilities. As a result of this increase in sanitation coverage, the incidence of water-borne diseases has declined and Bangladesh scores higher than India on IMR and MMR. In Bangladesh’s success lie several lessons for India.
We are bringing together experts who have worked on these issues in Bangladesh. The first half of the meeting will focus the key challenges associated with the city level recharge systems and conservation of lakes in both countries. Through the meeting we hope to influence the policy debate on the status of water bodies in South Asian cities and to push policies that encourage participatory and locale-specific systems for their conservation. We are developing and hoping to add to our network of researchers, lawyers and regulators conducting such work in the two countries.
During the second half of the meeting we will discuss the status and challenges ahead in rural sanitation in Bangladesh, and what lessons it can provide for India. We would like to understand how two poor countries are at such different stages of rural sanitation coverage when they started from roughly the same levels in the 1970s.
We would like to invite you to participate in this meeting and request your support to make this seminar a success. Let us share our knowledge to better understand the past failures and current challenges in the two countries.
For more information contact:
Sushmita Sengupta, Deputy Programme Manager
Amandeep Kang, Research Associate