The Asian Development Bank has underscored the need for exploring the potential of the Meghna River as an alternative water source for the Dhaka dwellers.
It also describes the fragile state of the city’s current drinking water supply due to increasing demand and surface contamination.
The donor agency made the remarks at its publication for August 2019, titled ‘Protecting the Meghna River: a sustainable water resource for Dhaka’ which was published at its website on Wednesday.
In the publication, ADB assess the threats the Meghna River faces and identify the protection measures needed to ensure that; so that it can become a sustainable and safe supply of drinking water. These measures include designating ecological critical areas, promoting cleaner industrial production, monitoring pollution, controlling wastewater discharges and pesticide use, and empowering local stewardship of the river.
As per the publication, In Dhaka, Bangladesh, mounting pressures have forced decision makers and planners to look for alternate sources of drinking water. Surface water near the city is heavily contaminated, and groundwater under the city is insufficient to meet current demand. Furthermore, rapid population growth is putting additional strain on an already scarce resource.
Fortunately, a viable solution exists in the Meghna River, which is located a mere 30 kilometers east of Dhaka. In the coming years, this source is expected to provide more than 40 per cent of the drinking water for Dhaka’s 20 million residents.
For this to be a feasible solution, a number of steps need to be taken in order to ensure the sustainability of this water source. The quality of Meghna River water is still reasonably good, but scenarios suggest it could become too polluted for drinking within the next 5 years.
For protecting the river from pollution, ADB observed that strong monitoring and enforcement by the government will be necessary to avoid pollution and maintain good water quality supply in the Meghna River.
The joint institutional setup by Department of Environment and Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority and collaboration with local administration should be an effective arrangement, and avoiding river pollution by declaring an Ecological Critical Area for the protection of biodiversity will in turn protect the two water intake points.
The newly declared economic zones in the Meghna River area should have state-of-the-art production methods with adequate treatment facilities or central Effluent Treatment Plant to minimizs the waste load to the river.
Small and medium-sized industries that do not have an ETP or operate poorly must be brought under compliance, and cleaner production is recommended to reduce discharge load and maximize profit. Municipal solid waste and wastewater should not be directly discharged into the river.
The DOE should take appropriate action in applying its regulatory instruments like site clearances and environmental clearance certificates. It should require all new development proposals along the Meghna River to include assessment of the cumulative impacts on water quality.
The river water quality monitoring programme conducted under the Technical Assistance should be continued by the government and a continuous monitoring system with an early warning facility should be established at both intake points.
Together, these measures executed in earnest should help in protecting the water quality of the Meghna River for Dhaka’s sustainable water supply.
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