THE Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority chief has said that the agency supplies 10–13 per cent of its consumers with contaminated water. Such an admission from the agency chief is worrying and entails an early redress. The agency — which handed over the city drain network, which in the absence of a proper maintenance is largely blamed for the contamination, to the two city authorities on December 31, 2020 — claims that it would be able to ensure safe drinking water for all by 2023. What is, however, worrying is that the agency, which has spent a large amount of money on various projects to ensure safe drinking water, has failed to bring about the desired results. The agency spent more than Tk 7,205.49 crore on the construction of water treatment plants, installation of deep tube wells and the laying out of distribution lines in the recent past, but it has failed to ensure services that the projects were expected to offer. The agency also has 11 other ongoing projects involving about Tk 25,640.91 crore.
The investment of a huge amount of public money has brought little relief as no one in the city can directly drink supply water. In 2019, a Transparency International, Bangladesh report showed that a second-layer purification of the supply water at the customer end costs natural gas worth Tk 332 crore every month on an average. A study of the ICDDR,B, the Bureau of Research, Testing and Consultation of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and the microbiology department of the University of Dhaka, in compliance with a High Court directive in 2019 found bacteria and contamination in the supply water collected from several points. Experts say that a high level of chlorine in the water because of chlorination can cause hypothyroidism. There are also other waterborne diseases that spread in the summer because of contaminated supply water. There is little scope to believe that the scene has changed much as consumer complaints about contaminated water come aplenty. Moreover, residents in many areas are reported not to get water regularly. What is unjustifiable is that although the supply water is not safe, the agency keeps increasing the tariff.
The agency must, therefore, attend to the issue of contaminated water that adversely impacts the lives of several million city residents. The agency must also expedite its ongoing projects, most of which are reported to be running behind schedule, to ensure safe drinking water for all. Well-planned and timely-executed projects in the overhaul of the supply water network and the establishment of more water treatment plants are what appear to be needed.
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