Pure water without filtration device!
A significant number of residents in six upazilas of coastal district Bagerhat -- where groundwater is unconsumable due to presence of high levels of arsenic and salinity -- are suffering from water-borne diseases this dry season as most pond sand filters (PSF) installed there have gone out of order.
However, the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) said the government is now planning to solve the water crisis through harvesting of rainwater. And with that objective in mind, it is considering to distribute about one lakh plastic water tanks for people living in coastal districts including Bagerhat, Khulna and Satkhira.
Consumption of untreated water, harvested during the monsoon and from ponds, are primarily causing the illnesses in Bagerhat Sadar, Rampal, Mongla, Morrelganj, Sharankhola and Kachua upazilas, according to health professionals.
Pulak Debnath, acting civil surgeon in Bagerhat, said this winter, most of the infected people in these areas are suffering from water-borne diseases.
After tropical cyclone Sidr swept through the coastal districts in 2007, DPHE and different non-governmental organisations built 2,500 PSFs in all nine upazilas of Bagerhat as a means to solve the scarcity of drinking water, said locals.
But almost none of those are currently functional due to the absence of proper maintenance, they alleged.
They somehow get by during the rainy season when they collect rainwater, but scarcity of water turns acute after the rains stop, said Sandhya Das, a homemaker from Sangdia village in Kachua upazila.
During the dry season they either have to consume water collected directly from the ponds or spend Tk 35 to 40 for a 20-litre jar of “purified water” available at local stores.
Risking the consequences such as stomach-aches, vomiting and diarrhoea, most people, without finding any affordable option, are consuming pond water, she said, adding that it would be helpful if they were provided with reservoirs for harvesting rainwater that they would be able to consume during six months of the dry season.
Rickshaw-van puller Shahidul Sheikh, from the same village, said, “Since most of the PSFs are not functioning, I fetch water from one and a half kilometres away. If I had a rainwater harvesting tank, the water collected in it would be good for about next six months.”
Many others in Kachua upazila said thanks to arsenic and salinity in the area, installing deep tube wells is not an option. So, tanks for harvesting rainwater would somewhat solve their problem.
Contacted, SM Shamim Ahmed, DPHE executive engineer in Bagerhat, said to facilitate rainwater harvesting, the Planning Commission of the government is considering to distribute one lakh plastic water tanks in coastal districts including Bagerhat, Khulna and Satkhira.
The water crisis situation will be greatly resolved once the water tanks are distributed, he said, adding, “The 65 ponds already dug in the six upazilas of Bagerhat over the last two years” will also come in handy.
When asked whether the rainwater collected in the plastic water tanks would be safe for consumption for next six months without any filtration device attached to those, he claimed, “As long as the lids on the tanks are kept closed, the water inside will not come in contact with air and thus, the water will be safe for consumption.”