Exploring the Potential for Rainwater use for the Urban Poor in Bangladesh
This blog post was written by the authors of a recent Water Policy paper and summarises the key features of the research and its implications.
Rainwater harvesting (RWH) has been a traditional and widely-practiced water management procedure in Bangladesh, especially in the rural parts. In their recent paper, Hasan and Irfanullah (2022) showed the gaps and inefficacy in the implementation of systemic rainwater management, especially for the urban poor, although RWH has been significantly mentioned in different plans adopted by the Government of Bangladesh (GoB).
The authors have analyzed how rainwater harvesting has gained increased attention due to the climate crisis, although climate change impacts will affect the feasibility of RWH. To sum up the key findings of the paper – national planning documents emphasize utilizing rainwater, but lack an implementation mechanism; RWH has been identified as a feasible solution for the areas that lack proper water supply; however, rainwater harvesting has not been adequately adapted for urban slums. Finally, the authors have recommended a context-specific rainwater management plan along with a community-led compassionate model that can ensure suitable water supply and ensure water equality amidst the climate crisis.
To apprehend the global climate crisis and its effect on water management, the authors have already reviewed the recently published Sixth Assessment Report (6AR) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In addition to what the authors have already reflected in their paper, the IPCC report highlights that already a significant number of adaptation responses have been recorded to tackle water-related hazards and RWH is one of them. As the paper indicated, the 6AR also highlighted that harvested rainwater can ensure water reliability for drinking, sanitation, and hygiene purposes. It is also documented in the 6AR that such adaptive interventions positively contribute to ensuring climate risk reduction. To secure integrated water resources management, appropriate policies and regulations have been prioritized that need to be continued.
As the IPCC’s 6AR emphasizes appropriate policies and regulations, Hasan and Irfanullah (2022) portray that the GoB also addresses such concerns in its different planning documents and policies. A recently launched investment plan, the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan, underlines RWH as an innovative and culturally sensitive (in salinity-prone coastal communities) solution. Along with promoting RWH, this Plan concisely gathers a few ingenious ideas to ensure water supply for health and nutrition, climate-smart agriculture, environmental protection (e.g., aquifer recharge), and overall security of the country.
Since water is considered a public good, for a long time Bangladesh has been welcoming donor-driven development initiatives. The donors can play a significant role in tackling the climate crisis and water management. In April 2022, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) published its Climate Strategy 2022-2030. Although the Strategy does not directly mention RWH, it recognizes that climate change increases water and food scarcity. Nevertheless, the Strategy highlights nature-based solutions to improve water security. The Strategy also emphasizes resilient and improved water management for urban climate action. The USAID Mission in Bangladesh should now collaborate with the GoB to achieve their common goals around water security under changing climate.
Echoing the article by Hasan and Irfanullah (2022) and briefly discussing some recent documents, it is quite clear that the importance of RWH will continue increasing as an adaptive solution to address the diverse impacts of climate change. Only a comprehensive, innovative, and realistic plan accompanied by an effective implementation strategy will ensure water safety amidst the ongoing climate crisis.