According to American non-profit organisation, Water.org, 4 million people lack access to safe water in Bangladesh, while 85 million lack improved sanitation. The organisation's Bangladesh page points out that “overcrowded conditions and a lack of healthy ways of disposing waste in urban centers” contribute to this scenario. A report in this paper last Monday, marking World Water Week, pointed out observations from researchers which should come as a warning.
A researcher of a university in Netherlands observed that faced with high population density, migration to urban areas, and lack of wastewater treatment, Dhaka is set to suffer from an impending water crisis. River pollution resulting from lack of wastewater treatment, the researcher observed, will make the situation “unbearable” for Bangladesh by 2050. Another researcher from Germany pointed out that Bangladesh's heavy dependence on ground water would cause land subsidence, among other problems, and that it was crucial for us to develop better governance as to its use.
Both the studies point to grim realities which we must prepare for today. We have over the years seen unrestricted dumping of waste into our rivers, illegal encroachments, and little effort at treatment of waste water. At the same time, ground water, which should be ideally conserved for irrigation, continues to be used for irrigation. Our exploitation of this resource and indifference to the destruction of our rivers has brought us to this point.
It is high time for Bangladesh to start prioritising these issues. Leveraging the skills of national and international experts, we could prepare a holistic plan for waste treatment, reducing pollution and groundwater governance. Proper implementation of the law is needed to prevent industries from dumping waste indiscriminately. But at the heart of the matter is political will. We hope our leaders and policymakers will wake up to the challenges ahead before it is too late.