ON THE occasion of World Water Day on Monday experts in the sector expressed deep concern about the surface and ground water contamination. Unless the government takes urgent steps to stop the pollution and unplanned use of water, the country will very soon be faced with severe crisis of safe water, nothing but waste water will be left. In some areas of the country, people are already paying a significant share of their daily wage on buying drinking water. The pollution level at River Buriganga has reached a near irreversible state. A host of factors including the dumping of untreated industrial waste, lack of water treatment plant, excessive use of pesticide in farmland has contributed to the situation. Successive governments have repeatedly pledged to take water security seriously, but they failed to act on their promise. The director of the Water Resource Planning Organisation said that plans to ensure water safety and prevent further pollution is in place, but it is the lack of coordination between different government agencies that is deterring effective implementation. The state minister for water source meanwhile declined to make any comment on the situation.
According to experts, the main reason behind surface water pollution is the unplanned and unregulated management of industrial waste water. Industries are discharging untreated effluent through ‘hidden channels’ bypassing their effluent treatment plant to lower the production cost and many units does not even have mandatory effluent treatment plant. In urban areas, the weak management of sewerage systems left the ground and surface water unprotected. In recent times, it has been reported that the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority has drainage outlets and sewerage lines linked to the River Buriganga. The heavy metal waste from the nearby tannery has already polluted the River Dhaleswari. The short-sighted promotion of chemical fertiliser for better yield has been contaminating the wetland and water bodies. In the haor region, increased rainfall and frequent flash flood pollute sources of clean water, inundate sewage systems and contaminate local environment leading to more communicable diseases and higher out-of-pocket public health expenditure. In coastal areas, the gradual intrusion of water salinity is threatening people’s livelihood. In addition, the unplanned extraction of ground water has increased the threat of higher arsenic level in water bodies. The prevailing situation paints a grim picture of water governance in Bangladesh.
Unless the government urgently addresses the situation, the impending water crisis will cost heavily on the national economy. All concerned authority must, therefore, look into the failure in the enforcement of related laws and regulation. In so doing, it must ensure that the indiscriminate dumping of industrial affluent into water bodies is stopped immediately. To reverse the situation at hand the government, however, needs a concerted effort involving ministries of industries, agriculture and environment, but the water resource ministry must lead the way. Water governance in Bangladesh must be radically reorganised and improved to deter the impending crisis of safe water.
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