Wastewater Management: Bangladesh scores low | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 23, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:08 AM, March 23, 2017

Wastewater Management: Bangladesh scores low

UN study also finds only 2pc of water in Dhaka safely managed

Bangladesh is among the countries with the lowest level of wastewater treatment in the Asia Pacific region.

The country treats only 17 percent of its wastewater, says the United Nations World Water Development Report 2017 released yesterday.

On water management system in Dhaka, the report said only two percent of its water was safely managed.

It also stressed the need for improving the efficiency of wastewater management systems in order to increase the proportion of wastewater that is safely managed.

Contacted, Prof Mujibur Rahman of Buet, who has been monitoring the discharge of wastewater into the Buriganga river for years, said, “The finding is not too far away from the reality.

“Bangladesh is far away from reaching the satisfactory level as the water treatment issue is still neglected in the country. We have to work really hard for improving the situation.”

He said the issue was very alarming and that the government should give immediate attention on it to prevent water crisis in future.

“If you look at Dhaka, there are rivers around it but you can't use their water. The situation is same in other major cities,” he added.

The report said Asia and the Pacific region were experiencing increased competition across key sectors over limited freshwater resources, while an estimated 80–90 percent of all wastewater produced in the region was released untreated, polluting ground and surface water resources, as well as coastal ecosystems.

The intentional use of wastewater in aquaculture is declining worldwide due to safety concerns and loss of land areas close to urban markets.

“Unintentional waste-fed aquaculture occurs in Bangladesh through fish farming in water bodies containing faecally contaminated water.”

According to the report, on an average, high-income countries treat about 70 percent of the municipal and industrial wastewater they generate. That ratio drops to 38 percent in upper middle-income countries and to 28 percent in lower middle-income countries. In low-income countries, only 8 percent undergoes treatment of any kind.

These estimates support the often-cited approximation that, globally, over 80 percent of all wastewater is discharged without treatment.

“In a world where demands for freshwater are continuously growing, and where limited water resources are increasingly stressed by over-abstraction, pollution and climate change, neglecting the opportunities arising from improved wastewater management is nothing less than unthinkable,” the report said.

Currently, two-thirds of the world's population live in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year.

Referring to the World Economic Forum 2016 report, water crisis was determined as the global risk of highest concern for people and economies for the next 10 years.

On current trends, the UN programme forecasts that water demand -- for industry, energy and an extra billion people -- will increase 50 percent by 2030.

The United Nations World Water Development Report is the UN's flagship report on water. It is published each year with a focus on different strategic water issues. The title of the 2017 report is “Wastewater: The untapped resource”. The launch of the report is at the core of the World Water Day celebrations.

'1 IN 4 CHILDREN TO LIVE

WITH WATER SCARCITY BY 2040'

One in four of the world's children will live in areas of extremely high water stress by 2040, the Unicef warned yesterday.

In a report titled, “Thirsting for a Future: Water and Children in a Changing Climate,” the Unicef, said, “By 2040, 1 in 4 children -- 600 million children -- will live in areas of extremely high water stress. It should come as no surprise that the poorest, most disadvantaged children will suffer the most.”

The report said an estimated 600 million people live in low-elevation coastal zones that will be affected by progressive salinisation and that Bangladesh is one of the worst victims of salinisation in water.

“One of the countries worst affected by saltwater intrusion and groundwater salinisation is Bangladesh, where approximately 20 million people living in coastal areas are already affected by drinking water salinity.”

The report said by 2050, soil salinity in the country is projected to increase by an average of 26 percent, with increases above 55 percent expected in some areas.

Citing an example of aquifer innovations in Bangladesh, the report said because of the country's low-lying topography and its location on the Bay of Bengal, most of Bangladesh's coastal communities are exposed to frequent flooding caused by cyclonic storm surges.

With the goal of establishing more reliable drinking water sources for such communities, Unicef and partners have worked with the Government of Bangladesh to pilot a Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) system, it said.

Each MAR system can serve several hundred people and can be easily maintained by the communities themselves. Storing freshwater in the ground is an important climate-resilient option that can help overcome the impacts of cyclonic surges.

The MAR system provides safe water when other traditional sources have been damaged by floods. The approach has been scaled up and currently more than 100 MAR systems are operational.

Their success so far indicates that the MAR system has the potential to be used throughout Bangladesh and in low-lying areas around the world, said the report.

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