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Bangladesh is part of:
Asia & Pacific · Southern Asia ·
Water Basins of Bangladesh:
Fenney · Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna · Karnaphuli ·
Facts & Figures edit
Capital Dhaka
Neighbouring Countries India, Myanmar
Total Area 144,000 km2
  - Water 10,090 km2 (7.01%) / 701 m2/ha
  - Land 133,910 km2
Coastline 580 km
Population 150,448,339 (1.045 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.524 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA 33.4 (1995)
Nominal GDPB $83,040 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $1,500
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 78,297 km2 (58.47%)
     - Arable 74,173 km2 (55.39%)
     - Permanent Crops 4,124 km2 (3.08%)
     - Irrigated 47,250 km2
  - Non cultivated 21,793 km2 (41.53%)
Average Annual RainfallD 2666 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 1,210.60 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 79.4 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 96%
  - For Domestic Use 3%
  - For Industrial Use 1%
  - Per Capita 616 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 74%
     - Urban population 82%
     - Rural population 72%
  - Improved Sanitation 39%
     - Urban population 51%
     - Rural population 35%
References & Remarks
A UNDP Human Development Report
B CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia
C CIA World Factbook Country Profiles
D Aquastat - FAO's Information System on Water and Agriculture
E CIA World Factbook
F Earthtrends

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Latest 4 maps for / including Bangladesh (more..):



Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Bangladesh is situated in the deltaic plain formed by three large rivers – the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. The combined total catchment of about 1.7 million km2 extends over Bhutan, China, India and Nepal. Only about 7% of this huge catchment lies in Bangladesh. With its 140 million inhabitants (2004) and a surface area of 147,570 km2, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It is almost completely surrounded by India, except for the Bay of Bengal in the south and a short border with Myanmar in the south-east. The only significant highlands are in the north-east and south-east. Most of Bangladesh is low-lying and relatively flat. A network of about 230 rivers, of which 57 are transboundary, forms a web of interconnecting channels throughout the country.2 Bangladesh has a subtropical monsoon climate, characterized by wide seasonal variations in rainfall, moderately warm temperatures and high humidity, with a hot, humid summer from March to June; a cool, rainy monsoon season from July to October; and a cool, dry winter from November to February. The annual rainfall varies from 1,200 mm in the north-west to more than 4,000 mm in the north-east.

About 90% of the annual rainfall occurs during the monsoon season. From November to May there is almost no dependable rainfall. Drought is widespread during this dry period, and irrigation becomes necessary for any crop production. Tropical cyclones, storms and tsunami-like tidal bores are quite common from March to May and during the monsoon season.

Climate Change - Continuing Vulnerability

Data indicate that minimum temperatures in the monsoon season have generally increased by 0.05°C and maximum temperatures by 0.03°C. Tidal data covering 22 years show that the sea level is rising about 4 to 7 mm per year. Detailed climate modelling has not been carried out in Bangladesh. However, scenarios by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have consistently simulated potential warming throughout the country in all seasons, a moderate increase in monsoon rainfall and a moderate decrease in dry season rainfall. Accordingly, projections for the Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra river basin predict a temperature increase of up to 2.6°C by 2050 and a rise in annual rainfall of up to 5.5% by 2020. Bangladesh has long been vulnerable to water-related hazards due to its high population density, location in a low-lying delta subject to heavy rainfall, and inflows of large volumes of surface water that are confined to a relatively short monsoon season. Any change in climatic conditions is likely to aggravate the situation.

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

Wide Seasonal Variation in Water Surface Availability

A network of rivers, channels and other water bodies covers 8.23% of the surface area of Bangladesh. Overall, the annual freshwater potential of the country is estimated to be 1,200 billion m3, of which more than 90% is inflow from upstream countries (Aquastat, 1999). Bangladesh has a treaty with India on sharing the water resources of the Ganges River.

The quantity of surface water varies greatly by season. During the dry season, which lasts from November to May, there is a serious shortage of water and demand exceeds availability. In particular, the southwest and north-west are prone to drought. During the monsoon season, however, surface water is available in excess of water demand. Unfortunately, due to the flat topography of Bangladesh, storing this excess has not been possible. Storage would require a regional plan and the construction of facilities in the upstream countries of India and Nepal.

Bangladesh has a predominantly agrarian economy. Agriculture generates about 21% of total GDP and provides employment for about 52% of the national workforce. It also claims the biggest share of the country’s land resources (55.8% of the overall surface area), followed by forests (14.2%) and urban areas (5.9%). Irrigation is common but not fully developed. Out of some 85,000 km2 of arable land, about 52% is irrigated (FAO, 2003). Due to the shortage of surface water during the dry season and absence of diversion structures, groundwater resources are heavily used. For example, about 70% of irrigation water is abstracted from aquifers (Figure 2.1). Groundwater also accounts for nearly 95% of the household water supply. This has led to declining water levels, especially in urban areas. In Dhaka, the capital, the water table has declined at an alarming rate of 2 to 3 meters per year over the last decade. There is also evidence of wells drying up in rural areas.

Despite its agrarian base, Bangladesh is experiencing rapid urbanization. In 2006, only about 25% of the population was urban, but the share is expected to reach 40% by 2025. On average, 85% of urban dwellers and 78% of rural inhabitants have access to safe water supply. Although sanitation programmes have been implemented since the 1970s, on average only 36% of the population has access to improved sanitation (WHO/UNICEF, 2008). In the slums of major cities like Dhaka and Chittagong, access to sanitary latrines is estimated to be as low as 14%. Significant investment in infrastructure is required to improve water supply and sanitation coverage nationwide, especially in expanding urban areas. About 57% of the rural population and 51% of city dwellers are poor. Poverty alleviation is central to the country’s development agenda. Assuring equity in access to water and sanitation services has become critical for addressing poverty issues effectively. Bangladesh has made important gains in the fight against poverty: the proportion of people living below the poverty line has dropped significantly since the 1990s. In general, the depth and severity of poverty have been reduced more successfully in rural areas than in urban ones, although the former still lag far behind the latter in terms of development.

The country’s industrial capacity has been growing since the 1970s. Industry’s contribution to national income has reached almost 22%. However, industrial growth, especially in textile production and leather processing, has had dramatic consequences for water resources. Many companies withdraw water on their own property and tend to consider it a free commodity, resulting in inefficient water use. Moreover, companies do not monitor or keep a record of the wastewater they generate. Therefore, data on the pollution load of various industries are not readily available. The potential for hydropower generation or conservation of surface water is limited by Bangladesh’s flat terrain and high population density. Kaptai Dam is the only major hydropower facility in the country, and hydropower represents a minimal share of energy production. The upstream parts of the major river basins, however, have potential for water conservation and hydroelectricity generation, especially during the monsoon season. Thermal power stations and some industries use large quantities of water for cooling. When the water is released it is up to 10°C hotter, with adverse effects for both the environment and the operating efficiency of other power plants and industries downstream.

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Legal Framework

The National Water Policy (NWPo), published in 1999, aims for a holistic, multisector approach to water resources management and highlights the need to survival, socio-economic development and environmental preservation. The goal of the Water Policy is to ensure progress towards national goals of economic development, poverty alleviation, food security, public health and safety, a decent standard of living for the people and protection of the natural environment. The Water Policy states that the government should develop a National Water Code to provide a comprehensive legal regime for the development, preservation and allocation of water resources.

In 2001, the government introduced a National Water Management Plan, prepared by WARPO. The plan’s aim is to implement NWPo directives and decentralize water sector management. It provides a framework within which line agencies and other organizations are expected to coordinate planning and implementation of their activities. It includes components for the short term (2000–2005), medium term (2006–2010) and long term (2011–2025). The original intention was to update it every five years, but the first update is pending.

A Water Act now being drafted will incorporate existing water laws related to ownership, development, appropriation, use, conservation and protection of water resources. It is also expected to establish a legal basis for ensuring that water rights are equitable, taking account of all uses and resolving inconsistencies and conflicts among various uses. The Act is expected to be finalized in 2009. Integrated water resources management (IWRM) is a relatively new concept in Bangladesh.

Under the proposed Water Act, unless otherwise provided by law, the state owns all water resources in Bangladesh, including surface water, groundwater, and sea water. Water may be legally appropriated for customary uses, but users must hold a water use-right. Use rights are naturally awarded to individuals for the collection of water for domestic uses, for bathing, and for navigating small watercraft. For other purposes, use rights must be acquired through a general authorization or license.

Water rights are tied to land ownership, and individuals and communities can hold water rights based on their rights to the land. The USAID-sponsored GOB project MACH (Management of Aquatic Ecosystems through Community Husbandry) established community-based co-management of wetlands. State-owned closed water bodies of less than 3 acres in size are subject to common-property principles; poor people living in the area are allowed to access the water for their domestic use. In addition, private individuals may have and control small household ponds.

The rights of riparian owners to receive naturally-flowing water from higher estates or land are guaranteed under the draft Water Act. Riparian owners are restricted from constructing works that will impede the natural flow of water unless they provide an alternative drainage source.

Institutional Framework

As many as 35 central government institutions, affiliated with 13 different ministries, have responsibilities and activities relevant to the water sector.

The NWPo identifies National Water Sector Apex Bodies (NWSABs), which include the National Water Resources Council (NWRC) and its Executive Committee (ECNWRC), the Water Resources Planning Organization (WARPO) and the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR). The NWSABs are responsible for reforms in the water sector. In this set-up, the NWRC is the highest national water management body. With 37 members and chaired by the Prime Minister, it is responsible for coordinating all water resources management activities in the country and formulating policy on various aspects of water resources management. The ECNWRC is essentially in charge of guiding national, regional and local water management institutions in formulating and implementing policies and plans for improved water management and investment. WARPO is the sole government institution for macro-level water resource planning and serves as the secretariat of the ECNWRC. The MoWR is the executive agency responsible to the government for all aspects of the water sector.

The institutional framework to deal with IWRM is not yet fully developed. Although Bangladesh has a capable private sector and a large network of non-government organizations dealing with water, it needs to create an enabling environment for IWRM. This will not be easy given the highly fragmented water sector and the differing views and priorities of the various agencies regarding the effective use of water resources. Nevertheless, the government is actively implementing a programme called Guidelines for Participatory Water Management.

Despite continuing reductions in funding from development partners, external agencies continue to play an important role in the water sector. A network of local consultative subgroups and other formal and informal mechanisms promotes consultation, coordination and, in some cases, active cooperation among these partners.

Government Reforms, Interventions and Investments

The Government has undertaken a number of projects to address water-related problems in Bangladesh, including flood control and forecasting, drainage and irrigation projects and disaster management. The government’s water strategy also includes expanding small-scale irrigation projects.

Implementation of water-related reforms in Bangladesh is plagued by lack of inter-sectoral coordination, conflicts in sectoral policies, lack of institutional capacity, outdated laws and an overall non-punitive approach incorporated into existing law. One objective of the Draft Water Act is to revise and consolidate all the laws governing ownership, development, appropriation, utilization, conservation, and protection of water resources.

In Dhaka, the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewage Authority has worked with the World Bank on a US $165 million project to support sewer systems, improve water drainage, and ensure water and sanitation services to low-income communities.

The Bangladesh Power Development Board has the authority to plan, construct and operate power-generation facilities, including hydropower. The Kaptai dam is currently the only source of hydropower in the country.

Country Profile: Water Sector Coordination

See Sector coordination sub-page for detailed description

Country Profile: Trends in Water Use, Management and Sanitation

Country Profile: Challenges and Opportunities

Although Bangladesh has abundant groundwater resources, these have been compromised by the discharge of pollutants into rivers and canals, and by the contamination of aquifers. With the exception of a few natural springs in the hill areas, Bangladesh has no potable surface water. Discharges of municipal wastewater are so significant as to render the existing water treatment facilities near large urban areas inoperative. In 61 of the nation’s 64 districts, the groundwater is contaminated with arsenic

Donor Interventions and Investments

USAID is investing in clean water facilities and disaster mitigation and readiness. The agency also conducted a study of the potential effects of climate change on Bangladesh’s water resources, and administers the Management of Aquatic Ecosystems project through the Community Husbandry (MACH) program. MACH aims to encourage environmentally sound utilization of wetlands.

The World Bank has partnered with the government to institutionalize participatory water management, strengthen water sector institutions, and maintain and improve operations of flood-control infrastructure. The World Bank engaged in the Water Supply Program Project (US $55.1 million, 2004–2010) to help Bangladesh meet the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation by 2015. Program goals included reducing the number of rural households dependent on arsenic-contaminated groundwater, as well as improving the delivery of water services in rural villages.

In addition to the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), DFID, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are actively involved in the water and sanitation sector in Bangladesh.


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Projects and Case Studies

Projects in or about Bangladesh

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Case studies in or about Bangladesh

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Who is Who

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See also

External Resources

"Water Supply and Sanitation in Bangladesh" on Wikipedia

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