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High Court orders test for Dhaka Wasa water from 34 locations

  • Published at 09:38 pm May 21st, 2019

The committee in charge of running the tests have been instructed to submit a report by July 2

The High Court has directed the government to run tests on the samples of water supplied by the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) to 34 areas in the city. 

The bench of Justices JBM Hassan and Khairul Alam issued the order on Tuesday, and instructed Dhaka Wasa to pay Tk1.7 lakh – Tk5,000 for each water sample – to the committee formed by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) to this end, to cover the test costs.

The tests will be conducted at the laboratories in the Dhaka University and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet). 

The court has asked the committee to submit the test reports by July 2. 

The High Court bench issued the order after hearing a writ filed by Supreme Court lawyer Tanvir Ahmed. 

After hearing the petition, the court said the committee would collect samples from Buriganga and Shitalakkhya rivers, from surface resources and groundwater, 10 MODS zones, 10 areas where consumers complained of poor water quality, and 10 randomly selected areas.

The court also asked Prof Sabita Rezwana Rahman, head of the microbiology department at Dhaka University, who was present at the hearing yesterday, for her opinion on the test methodology and the probable costs of testing the water samples. 

Prof Sabita told the court that the water samples that are not clear, are of a different colour or have smell need not be tested, as it is already evident that they are contaminated. The authorities must prioritize testing the water samples that are seemingly clean but may still be hazardous for public health, based on the data on the rise of waterborne diseases.  

Fresh water is a fundamental right, and if the evidence of contamination is present, then the authorities should immediately take steps to remedy that, she said.

In the areas where consumers have complained of poor water quality, the authorities should test the water samples within seven days, the professor further added.

Sabita said the Dhaka Wasa report on 59 problematic areas is several months old, and the quality of water may have changed by now, due to season change, as Wasa sources water from surface resources, groundwater, and Shitalakkya and Buriganga rivers. 

She further added that there are 360,343 outlets in 10 MODS zones of Dhaka Wasa, and if the authorities want to earn 99% certainty, they need to test samples from at least 15,585 outlets. To achieve at least 95% certainty, samples from 1,065 outlets must be tested.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Prof Sabita Rezwana Rahman said the quality of drinkable water may deteriorate any time, so running tests might not help in the long run.

“We need to repair the supply pipelines and improve water quality as long-term remedy,” she said.

Supreme Court lawyer Tanvir Ahmed filed the writ on October 14, following the publication of a World Bank report that said the majority of households that gets water from Wasa receives bacteria-contaminated water. 

Earlier this month, Dhaka Wasa came under scrutiny once again following a Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) report, published in April, that lambasted the agency’s service and water quality.

The report said 34.5% of Dhaka Wasa consumers complained of poor quality water throughout the year. It also went on to say that people have to burn Tk332.37 crore worth of gas every year to boil Dhaka Wasa water in order to make it consumable.

Although Dhaka Wasa Managing Director Taqsem A Khan categorically denied the complaints of contaminated supply water, an LGRD Ministry report, submitted before the High Court on May 16, identified 59 areas in Wasa’s 10 zones where the supply water is contaminated.