Ambassador’s Speech - signing ceremony of the Saidabad Water Treatment Plant Phase-III Project - 16 May 2018
Honorable Secretary of the Economic Relations Division, Mr. Kazi Shofiqul Azam,
Dear Mr. Taqsem Khan, Managing Director and CEO of Dhaka WASA,
Mr Khalilur Rahman, Joint Secretary Chief Europe Wing of the ERD,
I am very pleased to attend today the signing ceremony of the Saidabad Water Treatment Plant Phase-III Project, which represents a major step in facing the challenge of supplying water in a reliable and sustainable way to the population of Dhaka. This project is critical for the Government of Bangladesh to achieve its target of providing all urban areas with safe water coverage and full sanitation. This is in line with SDG 6 “Ensure availability and sustainable Management of water and Sanitation for all in 2030”.
1. It will allow the city of Dhaka to switch from ground water to surface water consumption, thus preventing further depletion of the groundwater table, which is reported to fall by 2 to 3 meters per year. The project will thus improve the city’s resilience to the adverse effects of climate change.
As you know, as per our commitment under the 2015 Paris Agreement, France is promoting climate change adaptation and mitigation measures as a priority. This commitment was renewed during the One Planet Summit, which was attended by the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Paris on the 12th of December, last year.
The stakes are high: we need to contain climate disruption that is threatening our societies and economies, especially in a country like Bangladesh, which is one of the most exposed to the adverse effects of climate change.
2. I would like to stress the importance of ensuring the sustainability of Dhaka water supply through adequate preservation of surface water, especially the Meghna River which will account for more than 50% of the future water consumption in Dhaka when the Gandharbpur and Saidabad Phase-III projects will be completed.
The use of surface water remains much more environment-friendly than extracting water from the aquifer through deep tube wells and energy-greedy pumps, but it remains exposed to increasing river pollution [e.g.: Turag and Buriganga, Balu and Shitalakshya]. Together with the Padma, the Meghna River is among the less polluted rivers near Dhaka. As such, we all measure that it is the last resort option for securing the safe drinking water supply of Dhaka. But it is threatened by the rapid development of industries and the dumping of highly polluted canals coming from the city.
As recently emphasized by the Honorable Prime Minister, Sheik Hasina, “rivers are the country’s lifeline, they have to be protected to save and develop the country”. The economic development of the country needs to go hand in hand with the preservation of your water resources, and the development of large-scale water supply infrastructures and long distance pipelines is only viable if it is accompanied by a strong commitment to protect rivers as a critical natural asset.
There is no doubt that a proper management system needs to be consolidated. It may require, on the one hand, the preparation of a roadmap for rivers protection to be endorsed and recognized as a national priority, on the other hand, the designation and the empowerement of a high authority to ensure its enforcement, and, finally, the active involvement of all key-stakeholders through adequate awareness-raising and coordination.
On behalf of the French Government, I reiterate our readiness to support the Government of Bangladesh to that end and our strong will to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Dhaka water supply. Let me stress that this concern is shared by all donors in the consortium.
3. I am also proud that this AFD loan agreement contributes to strengthening the already long-standing commitment of France in the water sector in Bangladesh which started in the 1990s with the financing and construction of the Saidabad Water Treatment Plant Phase-I and Phase–II. Through the different phases of this project, France has mobilized the full set of its tools and expertise to provide support to Bangladesh: consultancy for the feasibility study of Saidabad Phase-III by Egis under a FASEP grant from the French Government, concessional loans for Phase-I [protocole du trésor] and Phase-III [AFD], construction and operation management by Suez-Degrémont for Phase-I and Phase-II.
The next step will be the construction of the Gandharbpur Water Treatment Plant, under financing by AFD and others, for which the contract between Dhaka WASA and the French consortium of Suez-Veolia will be signed today as well, in a few hours. Both our projects will contribute to strengthening the ties and strong partnership between France and Bangladesh in the water sector.
I also would like to seize this opportunity to acknowledge the work which has been done by Degrémont in the construction and operation of the Saidabad Water Treatment Plants, which I had the chance to visit last December, and which is now fully operated by DWASA. Further to that visit, I want to salute here the efficient partnership between Degrémont Suez and Dhaka Wasa, with its dedicated management and teams. I trust that, joining their forces, Suez and Veolia will be able to bring their world-known expertise and reach expectations in delivering a word-class infrastructure for Gandharbpur Water Treatment Plant.
4. Finally and returning to the Saidabad-3 project, the signing of this 115 million Euro loan is an important milestone for the French Development Agency in Bangladesh. As you may know, AFD is a relatively new Development Partner to Bangladesh, as it only started its operations in the country in 2013. I am very pleased to see that AFD has successfully developped a long term partnership with the Bangladesh Government, with a signed project portfolio now reaching 367 million Euros [including this one] after 5 years of activity, in critical sectors
such as urban development, water, power and transport as well as corporate and social responsibility in the RMG sector.
This project is also a remarkable example of the strong European cooperation set up in the field of development finance, with a consortium of European Development Partners (Danida, EIB, EU, KFW) mobilizing a record loan financing of half a billion dollar. With this signature, AFD and its cofinanciers have demonstrated their capacity of working together to bring additionality for this landmark project to start and turn into reality!
I wish this ambitious and much-needed project to be successful and fulfill all expectations. On behalf of the French Government, I also would like to ensure Dhaka WASA and the Bangladesh Government of our strong and continuous support as a long-term partner for the climate- and environmental-friendly development of the country.
Congratulations to GoB and good luck to DWASA!
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