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UNHCR installs five safe water networks in Rohingya camps

  • Published at 08:02 pm January 4th, 2019
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The five new networks have a pumping system that draws water from newly-installed 70,000 litres of chlorinated water tanks UNB

The scarcity of clean water during the dry season has prompted UNHCR and its partners to turn to green and non-polluting technology to make safe and clean water available to Rohingyas

UN refugee agency UNHCR and its partners have completed five new safe water networks- powered completely by solar energy- at the Kutupalong-Balukhali refugee sites.

They were built over the last six months. 

UN refugee agency UNHCR and its partners have been turning to green and non-polluting technology - including solar power - to help provide safe and clean water to Rohingya refugees.

The five new networks have a pumping system that draws water from newly-installed 70,000 litres of chlorinated water tanks. Water is then pumped to tap stands installed close to households. 

The aim is to provide 20 litres of potable water daily to every refugee, for drinking and cooking.

In the dry season, water trucking becomes the only solution to address water scarcity   900,000 Rohingya refugees face, living across 36 different locations. 

However, due to the expensive nature of water trucking, it has been challenging to secure adequate water sources for the whole refugee population, most of whom fled to Bangladesh in late 2017.

The dire situation has prompted UNHCR and its partners to step up their efforts throughout 2018 to address the daunting water and sanitation needs.  

“The improved water networks are completely solar powered in order to reduce energy costs and fuel emissions,” said Murray Wilson, head of UNHCR’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes in Cox’s Bazar.

 “Chlorination is a life-saver in refugee settings," he said."Recent tests have revealed that most contamination to drinking water occurs during collection, transport, and storage at the household level."

“Chlorinating water helps in maintaining safe water and eliminates any risk of the spread of disease,” Murray said. “Previous water sources, mainly boreholes fitted with hand pumps, were often highly contaminated by waste water penetrating the aquifer from which the wells drew water.”

The five new water networks - jointly completed by UNHCR, MSF, Oxfam and Brac - are currently providing safe water to over 40,000 refugees.

The installment of nine more solar-powered water networks across Kutupalong refugee camp in the coming year, at a cost of $10 million, will help another 55,000 refugees.

Humanitarian agencies have been facing massive challenges in providing safe drinking water for refugees across the heavily congested sites, as it requires drilling of thousands of deep tube-wells and building water networks.

UNHCR has been working closely with the Bangladesh government, to identify water sources, provide expert advice and permission to dig tube wells, and build other structures such as water reservoirs, water treatment plants, pipelines, water storage tanks, chlorination systems, and boreholes fitted with hand pumps.