Drinking water challenges in coastal areas
Umme Tania Sultana , Arif Abdullah Khan

  • A sweet water pond with pond sand filtration technology. People are collecting drinking water directly without any treatment 
    Photo- Shaikh Mohir Uddin

87% of Bangladeshis now drink from improved sources of water, but the reality for those living in coastal areas is quite different. Just before monsoon starts, people in remote coastal areas travel up to 3-4 km to fetch water, which is not always safe to drink.

Due to saline contamination in shallow and deep aquifers, ponds are the major source of drinking water in these parts of the country. A changing climate has increased temperatures over the years, made rainfall unreliable and evaporation higher, making pond-water during the pre-monsoon season scarce and contaminated.

WaterAid is an international charity that transforms lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene, and sanitation.

The climate change program of WaterAid Bangladesh has explored the consumption practices in this area by talking to 382 households located in the Koyra upazila of Khulna, one of the areas most affected by climate change. Results show that all households change their major sources of drinking water for two to three times round the year in response to variation in water quality as well as quantity in different seasons.

Compared to what these households should be drinking for a sub-tropical country like Bangladesh, they are actually drinking both less water and less quality water.

Although water purification technologies have been introduced in the area, about 41% of households still use raw pond water as their major source of drinking water. This is mainly during the pre-monsoon period from March to May. This situation is worse for Maheswaripuri and Amadi union where 97% of people collect their drinking water directly from ponds. People living in this area frequently suffer from different types of intestinal diseases. More than 80% people say that this happens mainly during the water crisis period. Ensuring safe drinking water for coastal people is a great challenge. People demand more water technology such as Pond Sand Filter -- a technique to purify pond water, rainwater harvesting system, pipe water supply, and so on. But all of these techniques depend on rainfall which is becoming uneven day by day due to climate change.  

The per capita drinking water use is far too low to satisfy the demand considering its variation in quality as well it sources which ultimately highlight an urgent need for a holistic approach to ensure safe drinking water sources in the coastal area. 

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Umme Tania Sultana

Umme Tania Sultana,  Program officer, Climate Change Program, WaterAid Bangladesh. 

Arif Abdullah Khan

Arif Abdullah Khan, Program manager, Climate Change Program, WaterAid Bangladesh.