Highlighting the crucial role of water in protecting human livelihoods and health during the outbreak of an infectious disease such as Covid-19, experts at an international conference have stressed the need to play a more responsible role for river protection.
"Our rivers are living beings and receptacles of water. So, we should take a more responsible role in their protection," said Dr Muzibur Rahman Howlader, former chairman of the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC).
He was addressing the opening session of the 3-day virtual "6th International Water Conference-2021" organised by the ActionAid Bangladesh on Wednesday, read a press release.
Water experts, academics, environmentalists, NGO activists, and people from all spheres of life around the world joined the conference. The key thematic session of the first day of the conference was Water Commons: Lessons from Covid-19.
While discussing the rights of rivers, Howlader also mentioned that in 2019, the High Court of Bangladesh in 2019 declared that all the country's rivers are living entities with legal protections.
There are some international conventions and legislations for better water management. In spite of being signatories, many countries are not very mindful with regards to the equal distribution and allocation of water, he added.
To ensure water justice, Howlader called upon regional communities to come forward and negotiate with each other.
At the conference, Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of the international relations at the University of Dhaka, presented the keynote speech on "Water Climate and Justice in the Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic".
"The key to protecting human livelihoods and health during the outbreak of an infectious disease such as Covid-19 reminded us all that we need to protect the sources of water, respect our great rivers and hold parties accountable for the injustice that we have witnessed," he stated in the presentation.
Regarding the water inequalities, Professor Imtiaz also mentioned that the scarcity of pure water made it difficult for developing nations to manage their water resources during the pandemic.
Dr Eriberto Eulisse, executive director of the Global Network of Water Museums, discussed the role of this global network in enhancing the actions taken by people and institutions to repair the deteriorated water resources within the framework of sustainable development.
"Museums can stimulate innovation and new values on water commons by linking past and present water knowledge," said Eriberto Eulisse.
Highlighting the necessity of water museums, he stated that a water museum can build awareness during the global water crisis.
Farah Kabir, country director of the ActionAid Bangladesh, said, "We are taking river rights issues to another level through our various initiatives. We have developed a water museum in Patuakhali that enabled us to forge connections with water-related networks all over the world."
Among others, Dr Sara Ahmed, adjunct professor at the Centre for Heritage Management of the Ahmedabad University in India, said, "We must rethink about water management in the context of climate change."