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Collective efforts imperative to ensure water security for Kalurghat’s industries


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Roundtable discussion reflects on accelerating change to solve water crisis

Officials sitting at Roundtable discussion event regarding Water Stewardship

A roundtable discussion styled as ‘Accelerating Change: Decentralising the Conversation on Water Stewardship’, organised jointly by Unilever Bangladesh Ltd., Foreign Investors’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and WaterAid Bangladesh, was held at Radisson Blu Chattogram Bay View on the occasion of World Water Day 2023.

Rapid and unplanned industrialisation in the country has resulted in depletion of groundwater levels, even in the cities outside the capital. Country's commercial capital Chattogram has recorded a 20-meter decline in groundwater levels over the past 40 years. To be specific, Kalurghat industrial area is facing a number of problems caused by a severe water shortage.

To accelerate the change and start the conversation in this regard, a roundtable discussion was arranged in alignment with this year’s theme for World Water Day, which calls for expediting change and taking collective efforts to solve water crisis.

Key discussants including Ms Hasin Jahan, Country Director, WaterAid; Mr. Zaved Akhtar, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Unilever Bangladesh Ltd., and Jahangir Sadaat, Director, FICCI, and Chairman, Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ), took part in the roundtable discussion and shared their insights. Dr Tanvir Ahmed, Professor, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET); and Director, ITN-BUET, presented the key findings and recommendations from a rapid situation assessment of Kalurghat heavy industrial area. Industry representatives, academicians and representatives from service-oriented public institutions were also present.

The assessment found that the industrial pollution in Chattogram especially industrial wastewater pollution is on the rise imposing serious threat to the surface water sources. He recommended the Department of Environment (DoE) to increase their vigilance over industries before the water sources reach its tipping point. Dr Tanvir also added that a comprehensive assessment of the industrial area needs to be done to make data-driven decisions.

Speakers underscored the need for creating scopes of collaboration among industries of Kalurghat and thinking beyond industries to ensure water security and retain water health. Meanwhile, relevant stakeholders shared industrial best practices of water management for peers.
Hasin Jahan, Country Director, WaterAid Bangladesh, said, “The MNCs are demonstrating evidence of viable water management in their industries, we need to take a step further to collectively record these cases for creating a knowledge bank of good practices.

This will eventually help us to do evidence-based advocacy and start a dialogue with the government in acknowledging private sector’s contribution in achieving SDG 6. The alliance of such industries will also open up opportunities for medium and small-scale industries to horizontally learn from the good practices of sustainable water management”.

Zaved Akhtar, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Unilever Bangladesh Ltd., said, “Water is essential for a healthy society, environment and economy, and access to clean water is a basic human right. Bangladesh, a delta country with more than 700 rivers, is facing a water crisis due to a combination of factors, including climate change, rapid population growth, and inefficient water management. Chattogram, the commercial hub of Bangladesh, is home to a diverse range of industries that rely heavily on water, and for businesses, the end-to-end creation and use of our products are dependent on its continued access.

Hence, UBL, FICCI and WaterAid chose Chattogram and Kalurghat Heavy Industrial to build a dialogue and initiate a platform that helps us plan and act together. We know that many unregulated industries are unaware of the adverse effects of groundwater depletion and surface water pollution and lack the understanding of the true economic value of water. Thus, we must play a critical role and have a collective responsibility to promote and ensure environmental and sustainable business practices. We have taken the opportunity today to start the conversation about water stewardship—ensuring equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial use of water.”

Mr. Jahangir Sadaat, Director, FICCI, and Chairman, Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ), said, “As Bangladesh continues to progress towards becoming a middle-income country, it is important for industries to be conscious and responsible to ensure that economic progress is inclusive of environmental safety.

FICCI members and other reputed companies based in Chattogram are committed to safeguarding the natural water resource, and have implemented innovative steps in their factories and supply chain that can be showcased as best practices for the industry. I am hopeful that this roundtable dialogue will be a stepping stone for the companies in Bangladesh to ensure a sustainable water management system.”
Suggestions and insights shared at the roundtable are expected to stimulate changes in the perspective of the industry stakeholders with regards to sustainable water management and strengthen collaboration among the industries.

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