A few decades of shrimp cultivation has rendered the surface and ground water sources too saline for consumption in two upazilas in Khulna and an acute drinking water crisis has arisen in the area affecting thousands of locals.
People living in the Dakop and Paikgachha upazilas are suffering from such a severe shortage of safe drinking water that it has resulted in widespread diarrhoea and dysentery in the area.
Residents of Kamarkhola, Kalinagar, Saharabad, Joynagar, Satgharia villages under Dakop upazila and Madhukhali, Hanirabad, Radhanagar, Alokdip, Munkia, Dighalia, Bainchapara village in Paikgachha upazila are so hard hit by the problem for the last couple of months that they live in fear of massive health disaster at anytime.
Dr Akbar Hossain from Dakob upazila health complex said that around 12-15 people are seeking admission in the complex each day and the numbers are increasing rapidly. Most of those admitted are children under the age of five and are suffering from diarrhoea and dysentery.
“They all suffer from acute respiratory infection (ARI) from consumption of impure water,” he said.
Locals say high levels of salinity in surface and ground water has almost become a permanent problem here. Even the water pumped out by deep tube-wells is too saline for drinking.
They complained that the local administration is yet to take any constructive initiatives to solve this problem.
According to Dakop Upazila Nirbahi Office, a total of 2216 ponds in 106 villages under nine unions of the upazila cater to villagers drinking water needs. But most of the ponds have dried up in recent months due to the soaring temperature and especially because the area has not experienced any rainfall this year.
Chhabi Rani Mandal, 40, a housewife from Kalinagar village, told this correspondent,
“Every day I walk 6 kilometres to fetch one pitcher of drinking water from nearby village. On days it is not possible for me to do so, my children are forced to drink the muddy and salty water from the almost dried up pond nearby. They are all suffering from dysentery now.”
Jhumpa Roy, a student of class five at Kamarkhola Government Primary School ,said she gets to drink a glass of water during the six hours (8.00 am to 2.00 pm) at school. Jhumpa, Shavan, Rupa, Mohon and many other children of the school say that that’s the best glass of water they get to drink in a day.
Shavan said, “Often students get into a fight when the water in the containers dip to the bottom levels as children think they will not get their share that day.”
Asim Roy, headmaster of the school, said, “Most of the students suffer from dehydration due to the small amount of water they get to drink.”
“I have applied several times for funds to build a concrete water reservoir to the Thana Education Officer (TEO) but didn’t get any response,” he said.
Dakop Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mohsin Ali however said that his office is about to launch a project soon to set up water reservoirs in each school to partly overcome the drinking water crisis. He added that since the government has limitations to respond to such schemes quickly enough, private organisations should come forward to help.
Shamaresh Roy, Chairman of Kamarkhola Union said, “We hope to dig a fresh pond but the present crisis would continue until the monsoons if the government doesn’t come forward with alternatives.”
World Vision, a non-government organisation working in the area, has dug two ponds while and excavated 20 others to help solve the crisis, but that doesn’t entirely solve the crisis faced by the majority of the people in the area.
Source: The Daily Star, 19 April 2009