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Consumers condemn Dhaka Wasa water, but the trouble goes much deeper

  • Published at 11:50 pm May 6th, 2019
Water
Four out of 10 zones under Dhaka Wasa contained notable levels of arsenic, ammonia, chlorine and bacteriaCollected

Five water treatment plants in the city supposedly make the water consumable

The water provided by Dhaka’s utility service, Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (Dhaka Wasa), has come under fresh scrutiny following a report lambasting the agency’s service and water quality.

Five water treatment plants in the city supposedly make the water consumable. But the pipeline used to distribute the water often renders the process pointless. While Dwasa has been working on various projects to improve its network,  worn out and underdeveloped pipelines continue to provide a steady supply of dirty water to angry consumers.

In their April report, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) said that 34.5% of Dhaka Wasa consumers complained of poor quality water throughout the year. The report 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.

Dhaka Wasa Managing Director Taqsem Khan has categorically denied the charges, claiming the water is 100% drinkable, but failed to respond to a much publicized demand for him to drink lemonade made with Dhaka Wasa water.

The problem is rooted in Dhaka Wasa’s distribution system more than the supplied water itself. In Dhaka, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, the water distribution pipelines are old, with kilometers of pipelines either rusty or broken down.

Dhaka Wasa officers have admitted that much of the supply network needs to be replaced. They say they have around 400,000 domestic and commercial connections on their 3,800 kilometer supply network. While there is a policy of regular maintenance, including repairs and upgrades, some Dhaka Wasa employees acknowledged infrastructural issues that may adversely affect water quality.

According to Dhaka Wasa, the supply network lines have not seen any development since their installation in Nawabpur Road, Basabo-Gendaria, east of Jatrabari, Sayedabad, Maniknagar, Hazaribag, Nawabganj, Nilkhet-Azimpur to Buriganga, Dhaka-Narayanganj-Dhaka (DND) project, Uttarkhan, Dakshinkhan, Nikunja, Khilkhet, and Uttara Model Town.

The TIB report prompted various national dailies to report on how the affected areas are not only limited to places named by Dwasa, but include much more of Dhaka. It said areas that reported water scarcity during the survey include: Sutrapur, Jurain, Motijheel, Kadamtali, Chawkbazar, Hazaribag, Islambag, Nawabpur, Siddiqbazar, Water Works Road, Borobag, Bagbari, Ahmednagar, Shewrapara, Farmgate, Rasulbag, Mothertek, Nandipara, Mohammadbag, Palashpur, Muradpur, Jagannathpur, Uttara-6, Ibrahimpur, Kachukhet, Manikdi, Mirpur-11, Nakhalpara, Palashnagar, and Bhasantek slum.

A stunning 51.5% of all Dhaka Wasa consumers in Dhaka reported their water supply was visibly filthy, while 41.4% complained their water smelled terrible. Poor water quality all year round was reported by 34.5% of Wasa users. Water quality was reported to be the poorest in summer with 62.1%, followed by 59.6% in the monsoon, with only 7.5% complaining of poor water quality in winter.

Abdul Matin, president of Bangladesh Poribesh Aldolon (Bapa), said: “Dhaka’s water supply system was introduced back when nawabs were ruling the city. But it has grown exponentially and Dhaka Wasa was set up as a local government body to ensure safe water supply. But neither the organization nor the ministry concerned has been able to provide quality service.”

The Dhaka Water Supply Network Improvement Project (DWSNIP)  has already upgraded 1,600km of pipeline, but another 1,650km are yet to be developed.

The DWSNIP covers Wasa zones 1, 2, 7, 9 and parts of zones 3, 4 and 10. The project has a deadline of December 2021.

The Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project (DESWSP) is working on supplying 500 million liters of quality water every day.

DWSNIP covers Uttarkhan, Dakkhin Khan, Nikunja, Khilkhet and Uttara Model Town, Nawabpur Road, Basabo-Gendaria, Jatrabari, Sayedabad, Maniknagar, DND project area, Hazaribag, Nawabganj and Nilkhet-Azimpur to Buriganga and part of Kazi Nazrul Islam avenue, Agargaon, Shyamoli, south of Nilkhet, north and west of Beribadh, east side of Rokeya Sarani, Pallabi, west of Gabtali, west side of Rokeya Sarani, Kachukhet, Cantonment, Bijoy Sarani and parts of Mirpur 12.

TIB program manager (research and policy) Shahnur Rahman said: “If supply lines are not changed, it won’t be possible to serve quality water, though Dhaka Wasa is working on installing a new water treatment plant.”

Md Akteruzzaman, project director of DWSNIP, asked people to contact Dhaka Wasa if they come across foul water and pledged to address the issue immediately. He also urged patience and promised positive change soon.