There have been complaints of polluted water making its way into Dhaka Wasa's supply
Advocates of safe water have called for the Dhaka Water Supply Authority (Wasa) to take responsibility for the quality of water it supplies, following a myriad of complaints by angry consumers from around the city about dirty supply water.
The platform, named Wasa Nirapod Pani Andolon, made the call at a public hearing on Dhaka Wasa water at the National Press Club in Dhaka, around 11am on Tuesday.
Mizanur Rahman, convener of the platform, also announced a five-point demand, including clean water to be supplied everywhere; compensation for people who have fallen sick consuming dirty water; reimbursement for bills paid for polluted water; an investigation into Wasa's inefficiency; and resignation of Dhaka Wasa Managing Director Taqsem A Khan if he fails to fulfil his responsibilities.
The speakers also demanded that the Dhaka Wasa MD apologize for issuing a false statement regarding the quality of water.
MD Taqsem has categorically denied the charges made by several customers, claiming that the water supplied by Dhaka Wasa is 100% drinkable, but has failed to respond to a much-publicized demand for him to drink lemonade made with that water.
Mizanur recently garnered media attention after making some lemonade using Wasa water and taking it to the Wasa Headquarters for Taqsem to drink.
However, the Dhaka Wasa chief "missed" the opportunity to drink the lemonade as he was absent from the office when Mizanur, and other residents of Dhaka's Jurain area, gathered to protest in front of the Wasa building on April 23.
‘Dhaka Wasa water is bad for health’
Speakers at the public hearing pointed out the long-term impact on health from using the water supplied by Dhaka Wasa.
Dr Lenin Chowdhury, joint general secretary of Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba), said: “Wasa uses chlorination method to purify the water. High level of chlorine in the water can cause hypothyroidism. There are also other waterborne diseases that spread during summer because of the Wasa water.”
The environment advocate further said the burden of health issues was on the rise in Dhaka, parallel to an expanding lifespan.
“There must be an independent water testing facility,” he added.
Ruhin Hossain Prince, member of the central committee of Communist Party of Bangladesh, shared his experience of filing a complaint with Dhaka Wasa authorities.
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“Six months ago, I complained to Wasa about the dirty water supply. Some engineers came to my house and collected water samples, telling me that the quality of the water supplied to my area is better. Till now, I don’t know what the outcome of the test they ran on the samples is.”
Demanding transparency, he said: “Water scarcity is still prevalent; drinking water is not safe. Yet, every few months, Dhaka Wasa asks to increase the water tariffs while supplying polluted water to the citizens.”
Eminent economist and environment activist Prof Anu Muhammad said: “According to different reports by the government and stakeholders, 98% of the demand for safe drinking water is met. Then why do we need to boil the supply water and then filter it before we can drink it? We want safe drinking water from the tap that does not require boiling.”
The speakers also questioned the role of international organizations, such as Asian Development Bank and World Bank, planning projects with the government, and demanded transparency about the expenditure of such projects.