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80% of water in Dhaka reservoirs contaminated with coliform bacteria

  • Published at 03:36 pm July 18th, 2019

Dhaka residents have to spend an exorbitant sum of money per year in order to make the water in the capital safe for consumption

A recent study conducted by the Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) revealed that 80% of water in rooftop and underground reservoirs of Dhaka is contaminated with coliform bacteria.

Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operative Minister Tajul Islam and Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Dhaka Wasa) Managing Director Engineer Taqsem A Khan presented the report, titled "State of Cities 2018 Water Governance in Dhaka," at the Brac Centre Inn in the capital on Thursday morning. 

Mohammad Sirajul Islam, who was responsible for conducting the lab tests, said only 20% of water samples from pump stations was contaminated with coliform bacteria.

Sirajul also mentioned that the water is safe at source, but is contaminated in the distribution line due to illegal connections and uncoordinated development work managed by government agencies, which is damaging Dhaka Wasa pipelines.

“The highest levels of bacteriological substances were detected in underground reservoirs (6000/100ml) and tap water (2000/100ml) located in Babu Bazar of Old Dhaka,” he added, referencing the acceptable standards specified by the Bangladesh government and World Health Organization (WHO).

He further said substantial contamination occurs due to improper cleaning and maintenance of reservoirs, while the use of suction pumps also leads to contamination as the pumps tend to extract mud and other contaminants along with water. 

The researchers surveyed 768 Dhaka households for the study, and nearly one fifth of them reported that they suffered from diarrhoea last year.

According to the study, residents of flats in Dhaka consume an average of 310 litres of water per day – about twice Dhaka Wasa's estimated per capita demand. Slum residents consume an average of 85 litres of water per day.

Dhaka Wasa is currently in the process of replacing its pipelines, Managing Director Engineer Taqsem A Khan said. 

"Some greedy people are forming illegal connections with Dhaka Wasa, which is leading to the contamination," he added. 

Individuals typically use rubber pipes to steal water, hiding them among thousands of linkages under sewage canals, the Dhaka Wasa managing director claimed

He further said the water supply authority is trying their best to ensure a sustainable, environment friendly Dhaka, and will hopefully complete the tasks by 2021.

Chief guest Minister Tajul Islam stressed the need for raising awareness on water pollution and wastage.

"We need to put in our collective effort to ensure clean water", he added. 

As per the instruction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the minister discussed a formulated plan that will aim to save rivers surrounding Dhaka, as well as the Karnaphuli River. 

According to Sirajul Islam, Dhaka Wasa has been supplying water to 650,000 people from low-income communities at a rate of Tk11.02 per 1000 litres, under Dhaka Wasa's Community Program and Consumer Relation (CPCR).

The study further indicates that groundwater levels have dropped by more than 60 metres in the last 50 years, and may continue the decline to 110-150 metres within the next 50 years. 

More than one third of water users are not provided with clear water, the study said. 

Syeda Rizwana Hasan, executive chairman of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association, and Dr Md. Akramul Islam, director of the Wash Programme of Brac, were present as expert panellists, while Dr Imran Matin, director of BIGD, was the chair of the event.

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