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Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture
In Bangladesh, public sector involvement in irrigation water management (IWM) is shared between three ministries. Minor irrigation and small-scale surface irrigation schemes are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (LG&RD), respectively. Large-scale irrigation schemes, including FCD projects, are under the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR).
The MoA is mainly concerned with agricultural policy development, planning and monitoring. Project delivery is the responsibility of its various agencies, the most important being the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC). In the past, the BADC was directly involved in supplying inputs to minor irrigation and looked after the O&M of all sorts of equipment. It has now withdrawn from all commercial operations relating to minor irrigation, leaving them to the private sector. The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) demonstrates and extends information to farmers on crops, agronomic practices and use of on-farm water management and agricultural machinery. The Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA), under the MoA is also responsible for water resources management in agricultural development of the Barind Tracts region.
The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), under the MoLG&RD, implemented Small-Scale Water Resources Development (SSWRD) projects Phase I and II by constructing 26 rubber dams in the medium and small rivers in different parts of the country. LGED was also responsible for participatory management of these projects, which was achieved by forming the Water Management Cooperative Associations (WMCAs) for each project. The Bangladesh Rural Development Academy (RDA), under the MoLG&RD, is currently implementing a package model of Multipurpose Low-Cost DTW Projects in different parts of the country with a view to achieving optimum utilization of water resources for irrigation, domestic and other purposes such as fisheries, livestock rearing and nurseries. These multiple uses bring significant benefits and contributions to livelihoods, especially for poor households.
Under MoWR, the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) is responsible for the planning, implementation and operation of medium- and large-scale surface water irrigation schemes, FC and FCD projects. The Water Resources Planning Organization (WARPO), under the same ministry, has a mandate to ensure coordination of all relevant ministries through the National Water Council and to plan all aspects of water resources development including large-scale and minor irrigation, navigation, fisheries and domestic water supplies.
Water Management (WM) is considered to be the planned development, distribution and use of water resources, in accordance with predetermined objectives with respect to both quantity and quality of water. WM deals with integration of all activities having the aim of systematically controlling the inter-relationship between water and society. The the main purpose is to limit damage caused by water and reduce its exploitation both technically and economically. Therefore, WM has become important for addressing increasing pressure on available water resources. Agriculture is the greatest consumer of water resources, accounting for approximately 88 percent of all the freshwater withdrawn (Figure 1). Modern high-yield and diversified crop production systems can be sustained only with the proper utilization of irrigation water and management at the farm level.
Though there has been a significant increase in irrigated agriculture over the last decade, most minor and major irrigation systems have shown poor field performances owing to a lack of technical know-how, as well as poor on-farm water management (OFWM) practices. The Government has recognized the importance of introducing appropriate water management techniques and technologies at farm level as key to ensuring food security, employment generation and eliminating poverty through intensification and diversification of agricultural production. With this view, MoA has undertaken some development projects for improving the efficiency and overall performance of irrigation systems with better OFWM practices. Few investment projects have been initiated by the Government, some have been financed by donor agencies under the Technical Assistance (TA) programme.
Participation of women in IWM activities has not been encouraged; though in many villages they are active in other agricultural practices such as post-harvest processing, home gardening, rearing of livestock and poultry. However, here and there women operate treadle pumps for irrigation. Moreover, indigenous and tribal women are involved in collecting water for domestic purposes and irrigating homestead gardens.
Policies and legislation
There are no policies or acts related to irrigation or water management. This is because of rapid growth during the 1980s of minor irrigation using DTW and STW. In 1985, the MoA enacted the Groundwater Management Ordinance, which controlled the spacing for installation of irrigation equipment. This Ordinance was suspended in 1987 with a view to expansion of minor irrigation (mainly STW irrigation) to the private sector. Because of the suspension of space requirements for irrigation equipment, optimum utilization of groundwater resources has been impeded. In recent years, however, Government policies such as the National Agriculture Policy – NAP (MoA, 1999), National Water Policy – NWPo (MoWR, 1999) and the National Water Management Plan – NWMP (MoWR, 2001) have, to some extent, addressed the minor irrigation and water management issues.
Minor irrigation has been in the domain of private sector agriculture, where there has been a rapid expansion of irrigated agriculture, which resulted in a significant increase in crop production. In this regard, the Government has given special emphasis to minor irrigation development in the NAP, which was formulated in 1999. In relation to irrigation water management the mandate of the NWPo (MoWR, 1999) is to focus on increasing efficiency by recycling drainage water; rotational irrigation; introducing cropping patterns that conserve water; the conjunctive use of both surface water and groundwater; addressing the non-point pollution of water systems by fertilizer and pesticides, and issues of equity and social justice.
The NWMP, which was formed by the MoWR in 2001, has the mandateto address the overall issues of water resources management. It provides direction to short-, medium- and long-term action plans. The NWMP has emphasized the expansion of private STW irrigation in slow-growth regions, and issues are to be addressed that are related to arsenic pollution and salinity; especially in the coastal areas.