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Drinking water crisis lets up as rainwater harvesting shows way on Bangladesh coasts

This article was originally published at The New Age ( )


The longstanding potable water crisis in the coastal regions of Satkhira and Khulna is ebbing away as rainwater harvesting system has come into play. People in the coastal areas are addressing their safe drinking water crisis by setting up rainwater harvesting system in their homes.

‘I had to walk at least  an hour to collect drinking water every day, but now my suffering has gone,’ said Romija Begum living in Khulna’s Dacope upazila.  ‘I have a water tank installed in an open area of my house where I could preserve rainwater for months. It is a huge relief for me,’ added a smiling Romija.

To mitigate the drinking water crisis, 13,308 water tanks with a 2,000-litre capacity each were installed in five upazilas of Khulna and Satkhira under the Gender-responsive Coastal Adaptation Project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme.  Water and sanitation specialist Md Mainul Islam said that the GCA project also focused on sustainability of the water harvesting system.

‘We trained 101 women known as ‘Pani Apa’ for operation and maintenance of installed water tanks especially to empower them in the community as they are mostly responsible for fetching drinking water from a long distance,’ he said. A Paikgacha woman Shefali Begum working as Pani Apa said that she took care of 460 tanks and earned a good amount of money per month by providing services. 

‘I always wanted to be financially independent. Working as Pani Apa has given me a different identity among the community people,’ she added. ‘My family did not like the job earlier, but now they support me. I am financially independent.’ A UNDP survey revealed that 63 per cent population in five coastal upazilas – Dacope, Koyra, Paikgacha of Khulna and Assasuni and Shyamnagar of Satkhira – faced difficulties to consume drinking water.

The crisis prolonged more than six months for 51 per cent population in the areas. The study was carried out in February 2021 on 2,71,464 people of 66,234 households living in 39 unions in Khulna and Satkhira. It revealed that 27 per cent of 666 community hand tube wells had their salinity level within Bangladesh standard limit – 1,000 milligrammes per litre.

Among available 224 ponds which acted as source of drinking water, 48 per cent of them had salinity level that met the standard.  The residents in coastal areas consume water having salinity between 1,330mg and 2,406mg per litre on average, according to the study. The GCA project had a deposit of Tk 4 crore collected through contribution by community people for operation and maintenance of the tanks in future, said Md Mainul Islam. He added that salinity was affecting land and water in the southwestern region due mostly to climate change.