People in the country’s coastal districts such as Satkhira and Borguna are now suffering from a severe water crisis due to salinity intrusion and drying up of ponds and fall of underground water level.
Against this backdrop, ActionAid Bangladesh on Wednesday called on the government and all development actors to work together in addressing the crisis, which, it said, is the effect of climate change.
As a sign of a weird climate, the campaign group argued, Bangladesh usually sees rain and thundershower with the arrival of the Bangla New year, but this year there is hardly any rainfall in most parts of the country.
In some southern districts, people are seen using contaminated water, a forceful practice which is leading to an increase in diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, jaundice, gastric, urinary tract infections, skin diseases, constipation, genital itching, and sores.
The outbreaks appeared to be exacerbated in women with chronic diseases such as tumours and cervical cancer, ActionAid Bangladesh said in a release.
In Varashimla and Mothureshpur unions of Kaligonj, Satkhira, and 7 unions of Pathorghata, Barguna, the water levels of ponds have drastically dropped as a result of low rainfall.
It found that above 600 families of 10 villages of Kaligonj collect water from the tadpole-infested water source for household uses. “As we don’t have any alternative source of water, so we are using this,” Rahima Khatun of Narayanpur village said.
According to ActionAid’s report from the ground, many women are being affected and suffering from diseases due to the use of impure and contaminated water.
The medical officer of Kaligonj Upazila Health Complex Dr Mahatab Hossain stated, “Nowadays many women are coming with urinary tract infections, genital itching and lucoria”.
The water crisis has doubly affected the local people threatening their resilience during the pandemic.
A female water user of Satkhira mentioned that the price of water available in the market has doubled. “But our income has come down due to the Covid-19 situation. As we can’t purchase water from market sources, we are forced to use contaminated water,” ActionAid quoted the woman as saying.
As an emergency response, ActionAid Bangladesh is providing water to the community in the short term, said its Country Director Farah Kabir.
In the medium term, she said, “We are working with communities to find locally-led sustainable solutions to water crisis considering future climate trajectory.”
“But this needs a permanent solution and we are calling on the government and all development actors to work together addressing the climate crisis.”
As world leaders are gathering for US President Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit on Thursday, Mrs Farah Kabir said, “We, along with the communities in southern Bangladesh – who are facing a severe water crisis – argue that climate action cannot wait for far-off emission reduction targets. the global leadership must act now.”
‘It is not about the 2025 goal; it is about now. They have to take responsibility, act rationally and ensure that community not to face this hardship,” she added.