National water security index of Bangladesh: what does it indicate?by Zahidul Islam and Ahmmed Zulfiqar Rahaman
THE Asian Development Bank has recently published the Asian Water Development Outlook 2013, a compilation of water resources development indicators in Asia and the Pacific. The status of water resources development in this region has been presented as the National Water Security Index, and comparison has been made among different countries. The National Water Security Index of a country is composed of five separate indices. The values of individual indices range from 1 to 5 and the average value represents the NWSI. The five individual indices are: Household Water Security Index, Economic Water Security Index, Urban Water Security Index, Environmental Water Security Index and Resilience to Water Related Disasters Index.
Household water security will be achieved when reliable and safe household water supply and proper sanitation are ensured for all communities. It is an essential foundation to support sustainable economic development. Household water security index can be rendered with three sub-indices: access to piped water supply, access to improved sanitation and hygiene condition as indicated by age-standardised Disability Adjusted Life Years. The value for first sub-index would be 5 if either equal or more than 90 per cent people get access to piped water supply. In contrast, when less than 60 per cent houses are equipped with piped water supply this sub index will be evaluated as only 1. Similarly if equal or more than 90 per cent people have the access to improved sanitation system the second sub-index will return a value of 5, and it will represent 1 if less than 60 per cent people have that access. Usually, the third sub index can be determined considering death toll due to waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea or observing the deviation from average lifetime of 1 million people as a result of indolence. Value of this sub-index is inversely proportional to the death toll or disability resulted from diarrhoea. Otherwise, it can be inferred that as the more people die due to waterborne diseases or becomes indolent, the less will be the third sub-index value.
Food production, industry and energy are the three major bases of economic development for a country. Without water it is not possible to produce food from agriculture or goods from industry. Even, water is a vital element in the cooling process of a power plant which produces energy. Therefore, economic water security measures the productive use of water to sustain economic growth in the food production, industry, and energy sectors of the economy and it is an essential scale to measure the sustainable development as well as national water security of a country. Economic water security embraces three sub-indices: agricultural water security, industrial water security and energy water security. Each of these sub-indices is evaluated on a scale of 1 to 10. Individual sub index value 1 and 10 reflects uncertain and reliable water supply, respectively in corresponding sectors.
With the rapid urbanisation, the city population is increasing at a higher rate all over the world. Assurance of water security for this rapidly growing population and meeting their demands is a prime factor to measure national water security. Urban water security can be measured by three sub-indices: water supply, wastewater treatment, and drainage facility which measured as the extent of economic damage caused by floods and storms. Like the household water security, these individual indices are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5. The value of first and second indices will be 5 if equal or more than 90 per cent of the city inhabitants get reliable water supply and wastewater treatment service, respectively. Eventually a value of 1 will represent that less than 60 per cent people have access to these service. The third-sub index value will be inversely proportional to the per capita expenditure of people due to flood damage in an urban area.
Economic development of a country and environmental balance are generally opposite to each other. More economic development results less environmental balance and vice versa. In most cases, rapid economic development put a pressure on environment, especially on the water resources. Therefore, environmental water security establishes the basis for ensuring the ecological balance with growing development or maintaining water quality of rivers and wetlands. The environmental water security index assesses the health of rivers and measures progress on restoring rivers and ecosystems on a national and regional scale. It is controlled by two main sub-indices: human interventions and its possible threat on floodplain, and disturbance of natural flow due to various infrastructural developments on floodplain. GIS analyses are used to analyse these indicators.
Environmental balances are being altered regularly for rapid industrialisation. Furthermore, probability of occurrence of different water related disasters is increasing with the potential changes in climate in course of time. Therefore, it is necessary to increase resilience power of a country to cope up with potential climate change and water-related disasters. Moreover, sustainable development should be ensured to reduce the hazards of these disasters. This security index mainly measures the preparation of inhabitants of a country to cope up with different kind of water related disasters such as flood, drought, cyclone, storm surges, and coastal inundation by considering several sub-indexes. Major sub-indices are: population growth rate and density, poverty rate, mass telecommunication rate, and literacy rate.
What exactly National Water Security Index indicates?
THE highest value of NSWI is 5, which indicates a ‘model’ or ‘ideal value of NWSI’. National Water Security Index value 5 for a country signifies an effective and sustainable local government system, sufficient and sustainable public investment for protection and proper management of environment and water resources, sustainable rate of water use by inhabitants, well-developed technology, opportunities for scientific research and development, and an established model for water resources management through international cooperation. In contrast, the lowest value of NSWI (i.e. 1) is considered as ‘hazardous’ or ‘uncertain water security index’. Uncertain or hazardous water security index indicates there are lacking in implementation of water or environmental protection laws. Moreover, it also reflects the leanness of public investment to the protection of environment and water resources and their management. A NSWI value of 2 ( or ‘engaged NSWI’) indicates the country has attained certain level of efficiency for the implementation of laws and regulations to protect water and environment, local government system is on the way to development, and public investment for the protection and management of environment and water resources is also increased but not sufficient. A NWSI value of 3 (or ‘capable NSWI’) reflects an increase in implementation of laws and regulations of water and environment, efficiency of water resources development, public investment for the protection and management of environment and water resources. Moreover, it also indicates that development has been established in the technical and economic sector. When NSWI reaches a level of 4 it will then be defined as ‘effective NSWI’. An effective NSWI reflects: necessary measures have been taken for the assurance of water security in the planning of national or local level development, more emphasis has been given on national planning of water resources development, noticeable increase of public investment for the protection and management of environment and water resources, and implementation of laws and regulations of water and environment has been practiced all over the country.
National Water Security Index of Bangladesh
BASED on aforementioned discussion let’s estimate the NSWI for Bangladesh. First, consider the household water security. We have already explained that household water security index depends on three sub-indices: access to piped water supply, access to improved sanitation, and hygiene condition as indicated by DALY. As per the 2013 ADB Asian Water Development Outlook, the household water security sub-indices of Bangladesh are as follows:
Therefore, it is inferred that average value of the Household Water Security Index value for Bangladesh is only 1 on a scale of 5. When we consider the necessary water security index for economic development of Bangladesh, it can be seen that water security index for food production, industry and energy are 4.89, 5.56 and 3.78, respectively on a scale of 1 to 10. So, necessary water security index is 14.22 out of 30 for the economic development of Bangladesh which give us an Economic Water Security Index value of 3 on a scale of 5. For urban water security index, the first sub index value is 1 in a scale of 5 as only 20 per cent (i.e. less than 90%) urban people get safe water supply in Bangladesh. As only 17 per cent (less than 60%) urban people get the facility of wastewater treatment in Bangladesh the second sub index value also becomes 1. Moreover, considering the property loss due to flood or disasters, which is $127 for an urban area of Bangladesh, the third sub index become 4. Averaging all of these three values and also applying some adjustment factors the Urban Water Security Index for Bangladesh is 1 in a scale of 5. On the basis of human interventions and its possible threat on floodplain and disturbance of natural flow due to various infrastructural developments on floodplain, the Environmental Water Security Index for Bangladesh becomes 1. Furthermore, on the basis of population density and rate of population growth, rate of poverty, telecommunication and literacy, the value of Resilience to Water Related Disasters Index is also 1 for Bangladesh on a scale of 5.
Based on aforementioned estimation of different indices, it can be concluded that only economic water security index value gives a value of 3 on a scale of 5 for Bangladesh while the rest of four indices give a value of only 1. Therefore, the NSWI of Bangladesh can be estimated as 1.4 (i.e. average of 1, 3, 1, 1, 1 and 1) which falls in a band between 1 and 2. This implies that, as per the National Water Security concerns, Bangladesh is trying to improve its status from ‘hazardous’ condition to ‘engaged’ condition.
Slightly edited from bdnews24.com, August 25. Zahidul Islam is a hydrologist and water policy specialist at the government of Alberta, Canada and Ahmmed Zulfiqar Rahaman a professional at Climate Change Study Division of the Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services, Bangladesh.
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