WHAT residents of Jurain, Shyampur, Madhya Badda, Rampura and Tejgaon in Dhaka have done is a novel form of civic protest. Some residents of the areas, who have often complained of the supply water not being drinkable, assembled at the office of the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority with sherbet — a drink traditionally prepared with lime juice, sugar and water — for the managing director of the utility agency that is responsible for the supply water. They had with them sherbet, in jugs, made with the supply water, which looked muddy. They were all protesting against the remark that the agency’s managing director made on April 20 that the water that WASA supplies is safe to drink. They demanded that the agency should supply safe drinking water. Law enforcers stopped the protesters from going in but four of them were later allowed to talk to other officials as the managing director had been absent from the office for three hours. The protesters could not treat the managing director to the sherbet made with supply water, but the protests remained satirical, causing a stir that it was meant for.
The managing director made the remark after the Transparency International, Bangladesh came up on April 17 with a report saying that 93 per cent of WASA consumers employ various methods to purify the water for drinking and 91 per cent of the consumers burn about 365.7 million cubic metres of gas, worth about Tk 3.32, every year to make the supply water drinkable. Residents of some areas, who say that they use the supply water for washing, bathing and other household chores but buy water for drinking, said that they ran a signature campaign in 2012 and lodged a complaint, calling the attention of the authorities to the problem they have for long faced. As all that they did failed to work, they took the occasion of the WASA managing director’s remark to make a satirical noise. A report that New Age published on April 17 also shows that physicians were grappling with a very high incidence of diarrhoea, 11,751 patients being cared for in the first half of April, in the beginning of the summer and most of the patients were from areas where people have complained of the poor quality of supply water. Physicians are reported to have suspected that the problem could lie with the supply water. Physicians’ inference suggests that either the supply water is contaminated or it gets contaminated while travelling through pipes, the maintenance of which is also the responsibility of the water supply agency.
WASA authorities earlier said that the research method that the Transparency International, Bangladesh employed was not scientific and Tuesday’s protests failed to win support of city residents. But when people tried to pay the WASA managing director back in his own coin, he declined to receive. He could not trust his own remark.
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