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Equity and social justice in water resource management in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, equitable and sustainable water management is critically important due to the country’s geographical location, low-lying topography and high incidence of poverty. A large proportion of the rural poor is dependent on natural water bodies in floodplains and in hilly watersheds for their livelihood. Their subsistence is based on food production, fishing, harvesting wetland plants, plying country boats and other activities which depend
on healthy aquatic ecosystems.

However, the management of water resources in Bangladesh tends to involve a centralised, heavy engineering approach in order to control floods and install irrigation. The other uses of water, such as domestic use and sanitation, fisheries, navigation, ecology and biodiversity, tend to be overlooked, undermining the lives and livelihoods of the rural poor and ecosystem health. The construction of irrigation canals and the intensive use of water for irrigation have caused natural water bodies such as rivers, canals and wetlands to dry up, thereby denying opportunities for subsistence food production to the landless people and small
and marginal farmers. In this report, the authors propose a framework for promoting equity in water management and preserving
the environment.

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