Dhaka’s water crisis: No quick end in view

Water scarcity in the capital has worsened in the past few weeks due to frequent load shedding and fall in groundwater level.The people of Lalbagh, Mugdapara, Shabujbagh, Azampur, Nawabpur, Khilgaon, Malibagh, Mirpur, Kuril, Mohammadpur, some parts of Moghbazar and Basabo alleged that they are facing water crisis in their areas for the last couple of weeks.

Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is producing 170 to 175 crore liters of water a day against a demand of 205 litres, WASA officials said, which is about 28 percent less than demand.

And there is no quick end in view.

Asked about the situation, Managing Director of WASA Raihanul Abedin, said: “We hope to solve the water problem in the next four years as some Wasa projects including setting up a water treatment plant and replacing old pipelines will take some time.”

He was talking about the Sayedabad Water Treatment Plant Phase-2 with a capacity of 22.5 crore litres per day and Khilkhet Water Treatment Plant having a capacity of 50 crore litres per day.

Blaming load shedding for the current deficit of water supply, Abedin however said if smooth supply of electricity is ensured, Wasa could nearly meet the city’s total need.

WASA has a capacity of supplying 194 crore litres per day against a demand of 205 crore litres, he said.

Of the 505 water pumps of Wasa, only 274 have generators, and the rest remain idle during load shedding.

“A substantial quantity of water is wasted everyday due to leakage,” said the Wasa chief. “Replacing old pipes and setting up new ones of around 3,800 km length will start soon and end by 2012.”

To reduce dependence on ground water, they have already taken initiative for setting up, Abedin added.

The groundwater level has been declining by up to three metres each year, as the Dhaka WASA depends overwhelmingly on groundwater extracted by deep tube-wells. This also threatens a collapse in earth structure, experts say.

“I walked one kilometer to a water source, but I failed to collect water because of huge crowd,” said Sakhina Begum, who waited for an hour to collect water in Mirpur Senpara.

“Many residents of Senpara Parbata and Manipur, especially the poor, depend on supply by water lorries. But people, who are comparatively rich and do not like to face hassle for collecting water, prefer to buy water from Wasa and other sources,” she added.

The WASA has 478 deep tube-wells in the city to meet 75 percent of the demand, which is also 86 percent of its supply. The rest 14 percent comes from surface water sources, said a WASA official.

Morsheda Akhter, a resident of Rampura, said, “When necessary, we have to use dirty water for bathing and cooking. When we complained to the landlord, he asked us to buy purifying filter.”

Akkel Ali, Commissioner of Rampura, said, ” The population of our area is increasing day by day. We have already collected money from the residents to set up a pump at Jamtala in Rampura to solve water crisis.”

“Stinky, dirty water is our great problem. WASA officials said that they would try to solve our problem but the solution never came, ” the commissioner added.

Md Samsul Huda, commissioner of Mugdapara said, “Our water is dirty because Buriganga and Shitalakkha rivers are polluted. The government is not taking any step to clean up these rivers.”

“We have set up a deep tube-well two weeks ago at a depth of 1100 feet. I hope water crisis of our area will reduce soon, ” Huda said.

Kashem, owner of a five-storey building in Gandaria, said residents they have to buy water everyday but most of the days they do not get water from Wasa due to huge demand.

“To buy a small lorry of water from Wasa, we usually have to wait for 10 days,” he said.

Water supply is also disrupted for load shedding as the Dhaka Wasa cannot operate its pumps for hours everyday.

Experts now talk about various alternatives to face water crisis in the city.

Minhazur Rahman, senior hydro geologist, Institute of Water Modeling (IWM), wrote in a study paper: “Rainwater harvesting has immense possibility in Dhaka city. Bangladesh is a country of heavy monsoon. The water that goes down the drain and causes water logging every year can serve a better purpose.”

The capital city averages nearly 1,700 to 2,200mm rainfall every year while the nationwide average is around 2,200 to 2800mm. Monsoon usually lasts from May to October and there is occasional rainfall in November also.

News: UNB, Dhaka


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