Safe drinking water still elusive for Dhaka citizens

Sadiqur Rahman | Published: 04:16, Oct 26,2018 | Updated: 04:17, Oct 26,2018


People in Dhaka have been facing waterborne health threats as they are yet to be provided with safe water.
Although, the managing director of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority Taqsem A Khan, in several occasions has claimed that the WASA-supplied water is ‘much better’ now, the reality provides an altogether different picture as patients suffering from diarrhoea throng city hospitals, even before dry season has set in.
People of many densely populated areas in the capital have been complaining for long against WASA, the lone state-run water supplier to 20 million people in the capital, for its stinky, filthy water.
According to the local government ministry data, the capital has demand for 2.35 billion litres of safe water.
Dhaka WASA has a capacity to pump up 2.45 billion litres of water every day. At least 1.7 billion litres of water are pumped up through deep tube-wells of WASA while another 6 million litres of water is supplied from the Buriganga and Shitalakkhya rivers through treating them in three water treatment plants.
Water supplied by WASA does not leave its stench even if they boil it.
However, the treated water ends up being filthy and stinky due to glitches in supply lines in different areas, WASA officials claimed.
In many cases, people boil water before drinking although it does not always ensure complete disinfection of water borne bacteria and viruses resulting in waterborne diseases.
In a study published in December last year, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council or BARC found that almost 97 percent of the drinking water in jars used mostly in offices and restaurants contain ‘coliform bacteria’, a germ commonly found in human and animal faeces. Cases have been reported where WASA water has been directly filled in jars and sold.
A recently published World Bank report states that the improved water available in the country also contains hazardous elements.
According to the report, 41 per cent of the improved water is contaminated with E.Coli, commonly appears from human and animal faeces, while 13 per cent of the water contains arsenic.
Khairul Islam, country director for WaterAid, has told New Age that despite network expansion of water supply in Dhaka, access to pure drinking water is still elusive.
‘The privately run mineral water suppliers must meet the standard as water means life,’ he said.
This year, Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution set up 39 mobile courts across Dhaka to check illegal water bottling.
SM Ishaque Ali, director (certification mark) of BSTI told New Age that during the raids, BSTI sealed 32 unauthorised water bottling facilities, jailed 70 persons and fined them Tk 54,70,000.
At least 34,000 jars carrying substandard water were destroyed during the raids, he added.
Many of the residents also use water purifiers. Some of them boil water before putting in purifiers for their satisfaction as they cannot test the water’s chemical quality by themselves.
Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is designated by the government to certify the quality of water purifiers.
Institute of National Analytical Research and Service under BCSIR officials told New Age that 20 water purifier supplying companies applied so far to receive certification for their products.
‘Purified water samples were collected under 12 field-level surveys and tested in five laboratories. Of the companies, only six got certification for marketing purifiers,’ said Md Aminul Ahsan, director of INARS.
Citing that regular inspection was crucial to check marketing of substandard water purifiers, Aminul said that users also should take care of the purchased device.
‘Expired filter of the purifiers must be removed, otherwise it cannot supply pure water,’ he said.

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