Water crisis persists in different areas of the capital city round the year but it becomes acuter in certain metropolitan areas in the summer season. The records of other cities and towns in the country in providing their inhabitants with adequate safe water are no better. In the hilly districts and semi-arid regions of Bangladesh even the far-flung rural areas suffer from acute water crisis. This year temperature is high and demand for water is naturally higher. But in several areas of the city, water supplied by the Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) falls far short of the demand and where it is available, the quality is so poor that it cannot be used either for cooking meals or bathing. Unavailability of water in residences, particularly in flats several storey high, can terribly upset life of the residents there. Now when fasting people have to encounter this crisis at the beginning of Ramadan, it comes as a cruel blow to them.
Notably, access to water is a human right. In 2010, the United Nations declared the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right. Dhaka WASA has failed to ensure that the residents of the city enjoy this UN-declared right. Every year the World Water Day is observed on March 22, highlighting a particular theme. This year the theme: 'Leaving no one behind' sounds nice because it recognises the role of water not only in catering for the building block of human body but also for 'creating jobs and supporting economic, social and human development'. This is in line with the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030. However, this remains a pious wish for the peoples in large swathes of the planet.
So far as availability of water in this country is concerned, it is more a management problem than a dearth of sources. For example, four rivers girdle the capital city but a total lack of vision and management has polluted waters of those rivers so heavily that their colour has turned jet black at many points and they stink. Now the river waters cannot be treated for household use. The city's need for water has been mostly met by extracting underground water. Experts have sounded the alarm on the consequences of long-term withdrawal of water from the underground. However, in the face of ground water table having dropped alarmingly, the government has taken a decision not to extract any more ground water in Dhaka. That way, the situation has stabilised; but there is a water recharge problem through rain water replenishment in Dhaka. This is because of the nature of soil in the area.
The authorities have plans to use surface water all the way from the Padma and Meghna. They have found water from the mighty Meghna suitable for treatment and supply to the residents in Dhaka. A project has been undertaken for this purpose but it has hit a few snags and could not progress the way it should have. When the stake is great and the urgency is overriding, the surface water treatment plants will have to be put in place on priority basis under a time-bound plan.
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