Some 30,000 Rohingyas living in Cox's Bazar will soon have easier access to safe water with the inauguration of a major new borehole project this week, said a UN migration agency on Thursday.
It is the first part of a high capacity water production and supply system designed to meet spiraling water needs in Ukhiya, which suffers frequent water shortages.
Last year's massive Rohingya refugee influx into Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas placed huge pressure on water supply in Cox's Bazar, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Both the refugees and host communities have been suffering from insufficient supplies of safe water.
To address the need, IOM, the UN migration agency, launched the safe water supply project in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and Bangladesh's Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE).
At present, the targeted population needs about 500 cubic metres of safe water per day. The test production well that DPHE will establish with Jica’s support is expected to meet that demand when it is operating at full capacity.
IOM will design and construct the water supply network and facilities once the borehole work is completed next month. It expects to start the water distribution within three months of the installation of the borehole.
"We thought that there might be problems with deep tube wells as well in future. So, we decided to go deeper and establish this deep ground water production well," said Jica's Country Program Coordinator for Disaster Management Naoki Matsumura.
He said the camp is very congested and almost 95% of toilets are close to water points, and these eventually degrade the water quality. "So, the government decided to go for establishing deep tube wells," Naoki Matsumura said.
DPHE's Superintending Engineer, Groundwater Circle Md Saifur Rahman, said access to safe water is a human right, adding: "This investigatory project poses several challenges. First is getting good quality ground water. This is just the initial step to see how successful the project will be."
"It's very difficult to ensure safe ground water here. But we're very excited about this project, which is the first of its kind in the camp. It will ensure daily access to safe water for 30,000-40,000 people," said IOM Cox's Bazar Emergency Coordinator Manuel Pereira.
"If it's a success, we will scale it up in other areas of the camp, as well as in host communities, especially in Teknaf where groundwater is scarce," he added.