A conversation with K M Ulil Amor Bin Zaman: preserving the world

“All that is happening in the environment, especially all the bad things, are the consequences of human activity,” says Master of Integrated Water Management student K M Ulil Amor Bin Zaman.

“So, in the water sector, it’s the same. Things like pollution are happening because of human intervention. Water is not a single part. If the water becomes polluted, then the environment gets polluted, and people get affected. To preserve the world, everyone has to do their part.”

Ulil is one of 164.7 million people who call the South Asian country of Bangladesh home. And as one of the most densely populated countries in the world, Bangladesh has its fair share of water issues. The World Health Organisation estimates that only 40% of people in Bangladesh have proper sanitation, while a staggering 60% of the population lacks access to safe drinking water.

Ulil’s father worked for the government, and growing up, Ulil travelled often; he and his family lived in in various cities across the country. Over time, Ulil says he began to notice the enormous impact from the expansion of urban areas, particularly as it related to water management and pollution.

“The sanitation problem is not as bad in the urban areas, but is predominantly bad in the slums. The main reason for this is the pollution. Industries are violating rules by not having enough water treatment plants.”

Armed with an undergraduate in architecture, Ulil is particularly interested in the way that urban developments contribute to Bangladesh’s rapidly increasing water crisis. He also wants to learn more about governance and water leadership. He says he’s become aware of the difficulty of policing water regulations in his home country with such a dense population. He attributes this to the high level of corruption within the water sector and the degraded state of local waterways.

“In the affluent areas, the water quality is okay, but the management is not good … because in the rich areas, people are constructing illegal lines without proper monitoring.”

After he completes the Master of Integrated Water Management with the International WaterCentre, Ulil hopes to return to Bangladesh with a new perspective on integrated water management, to help him better understand and manage the country’s water crisis.