A report that a committee of experts has prepared in compliance with a High Court order of July 30, submitted to the court on Wednesday, says that the presence of total coliforms in water supplied by the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority indicates leaks in its distribution pipes. The High Court in July issued the directive after the supply agency and a government committee had submitted contradictory reports on the presence of bacteria in supply water. The government committee found faecal coliforms and escherichia coli at unacceptable levels in samples of ground water distribution zones and surface water treatment plants but the agency’s report found no bacteria but an excessive level of chlorine, which the agency thought to be ‘normal’. The report at hand not only supports earlier findings of the government committee but also attributes the reason for the presence of bacteria and contamination to leaks in distribution lines.
A number of earlier studies and reports also found harmful bacteria in supply water. A BRAC Institute of Governance and Development study found faecal coliform and other contamination in samples collected from five pumps in the capital at three points while a World Bank report, published on October 11, 2018, said that 41 per cent of all water sources across the country contained escherichia coli, which suggests a high prevalence of faecal contamination, and about 80 per cent of the supply water contains harmful bacteria. The presence of bacteria and other contamination in water causes numerous health hazards, including ear infection, dysentery, typhoid, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis and hepatitis. Unsafe and poor-quality water is said to cause most of the diseases. Besides, unsafe supply water also has economic impact too, as Transparency International, Bangladesh in an earlier study said that 91 per cent of supply water consumers need to boil water for drinking and the cost goes up to Tk 332 crore a month.
In view of the gravity and impact of unsafe and poor-quality water on public health, the supply agency must overhaul the supply water network to ensure safe water. Moreover, there must be coordination and cooperation between the supply water agency and city authorities to prevent illegal connection and pilferage to keep the distribution network safe and free of external contamination. The authorities at the same time must run campaigns to make consumers aware of the need for cleaning up underground and overhead reservoirs in houses, as the committee of experts has recommended.
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