Project for arsenic-free water in rural areas
With a view to increasing people's access to safe drinking water free from arsenic and pathogen in rural communities, the government has undertaken a project titled 'Bangladesh Water Supply Programme Project (BWSPP)' with the assistance of the World Bank.
The project is piloting innovative measures like supply of small-scale piped water in villages through local public-private partnership model involving private sponsors.
The BWSP project focuses on rural and urban poor, ensuring their access to arsenic- and pathogen-free water, an official of the World Bank said, mentioning that under the project the World Bank is providing financial assistance to the government as 'grants, not loan'.
Under the project, 21 villages are now enjoying access to safe water through small-scale piped water provision. Out of 21 schemes, four schemes are now providing water supply to villagers while the rest 17 schemes are under implementation. Typically, a rural piped water scheme supports a village with up to 1400 households.
For each of the schemes, the world Bank grant covers 70 percent of the cost and the remaining 30 percent comes from private or NGO financing.
In the early 90s, a vast majority of rural population had extensive and convenient water supply due to the spread of shallow tube-wells. Rural consumers themselves installed and maintained these tube wells.
This success was countered by a setback with the discovery of arsenic contamination of groundwater at the depth of 200-250 metres across large parts of the country. By late 90s, water from 20 percent tube-wells was no longer safe for domestic use.
Other than rural piped water scheme, the BWSP project is also helping expand and rehabilitate water supply system in 24 selected municipalities as well as facilitating to set up deep tube-wells in different parts of the country, including the cyclone Sidr/Aila-affected districts.
Besides, the project is piloting arsenic mitigation activities through modified institutional arrangement involving communities and local government institutions to respond to the arsenic crisis through awareness building, training and management of arsenic mitigation activities in hot-spot unions of three upazilas of Munshiganj district.
Under this pilot component, Ward Arsenic Mitigation Water User Group (WAMWUG) was formed to identify and plan low-cost options to provide sustainable supplies of arsenic-safe water.
The Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural development and Cooperatives is implementing the BWSPP.
While visiting the project site of Nalta Sharif rural piped water supply scheme at Kaliganj in Satkhira, the correspondent found that some 367 household connections were already given and the rural people have expressed satisfaction over the supply of piped water.
Sponsored by Dhaka Ahsania Mission, the Nalta Sharif rural piped water supply scheme has fulfilled the required criteria under the BWSP project. The Nalta Sharif rural piped water supply scheme was officially inaugurated on December 26 last year.
"We had to collect drinking water from places some 4 or 5 kilometres away before the launch of supply of piped water. Now we are getting the piped water at our doorsteps," a middle-aged woman at Nalta Shaif village said.
She also said piped water (used only for drinking) is supplied twice daily in exchange for Tk 100 per month and the connection fee is Tk 1000.