Zakia Haque, Campaign Coordinator
I was present in a national seminar at the University of Dhaka on 26 June 2013 on youth engagement in water cooperation titled, ‘Strengthen the Civil Society Capacity and Voice on Water Cooperation’. The term water cooperation is about every action involving water management that requires effective cooperation between multiple actors whether at the local or international scale. Oxfam in Bangladesh has jointly organized this seminar with the Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies (IDMVS), University of Dhaka to mark the International year of water cooperation- 2013. The major objective of the year is to raise awareness, both on the potential for increased cooperation, and on the challenges facing water management in light of the increase in demand for water access, allocation & services.
Oxfam works for strengthening the civil society and raise their voices on water cooperation working with these young people in line with GROW campaign, which also stresses the need for natural resource management in efficient way and water is one of the major issues. It is high time to think on focusing water responsive urbanization and development in climate change phenomenon. Before this national level seminar took place, students shared their findings with city cooperation authorities, organized dialogue with policy makers, civil society and media for the river Mayur, Teesta, Surma, Madhumati and Turag in Khulna, Kurigram, Sylhet, Satkhira and Dhaka respectively. Finally, they came to Dhaka to share their findings with policy makers and drew the attention to see the changes at policy and practice level.
Students coming from as many as six public universities, shared their works on the six rivers of their own locality. To me it was a source of insight and inspiration to see the youth applying innovation and creativity in presenting their findings in an attractive as well professional ways based on their mapping of those rivers. They presented how the livelihood has affected, as a result of water pollution, climate change vulnerability, increased population growth, industrialization, unplanned urbanization, corruption and mismanagement.
It reminds me the river which I used to see in my hometown with full of resources at my childhood, when I was fishing and boating on the river which gradually converted to a barren area, due to grabbing by the powerful local elites. I know there are many Bangladeshis who have similar stories to share now.
In Bangladesh with high population density and rapid urbanization people involved in water management do not cooperate, the ‘cooperation chain’ is broken and water resources are not managed in the most effective way, with adverse effects on human lives and the economy. Are we ready to engage active citizen movement in restoring the active delta where 60% of the total land are wetland? Yes, it is also important to address the ecological vulnerability of our 230 rivers and 57 international rivers which is directly linked with food security.