‘People are standing in queues for hours under the scorching sun just for a jug of water’
In the southern coastal district of Satkhira, families are being hit by a prolonged and unusual dry spell, which has affected groundwater supply and has led to a lack of clean and safe drinking water.
The availability of freshwater supplies, such as in ponds and through tube wells, is dwindling due to increasing levels of salinity.
People are being forced to drink polluted water, which is causing diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, jaundice, skin diseases and sores.
The crisis is disproportionately affecting women and children, who are generally responsible for collecting water for domestic use, reports a correspondent from Satkhira after speaking to doctors at local hospitals.
Moreover, as a nationwide lockdown aims to limit the spread of Covid-19 cases, the water crisis means families are struggling to take the hygiene measures needed to protect themselves against the virus.
Akhter Hossain, a resident of Kaikhali union under Shyamnagar upazila, said: “People are standing in queues for hours under the scorching sun just for a jug of water. They are walking 3-4km to collect water from the filter by Akij Company near Jayakhali junction. But the water in the filter will run out in a day or two. No one knows what will happen next.”
Monir Hossain, a resident of the same area, said a pond had officially been dug as a source of drinking water in Jayakhali village under the union. “But influential people are cultivating fish by occupying the pond and its water is no longer safe to drink because of the use of fish feed.”
The water crisis has not only affected Kaikhali union. Conditions are similar in the adjoining areas, notably Ramjannagar, Ishwaripur, Burigoalini, Gabura and Padmapukur.
Devdas Sarkar, a local college teacher, said: “Last year’s super cyclone Amphan tore through the coastal embankment and flooded the region with saltwater. Ponds, the only water source in the area, were all contaminated and so sources of potable water became scarce.
“The NGO providing safe drinking water to locals for months, has failed to source water for the last couple of days, exacerbating the crisis.”
If the government failed to come up with a solution to the water scarcity soon, this could turn into a humanitarian crisis, he added.
Meanwhile, SM Jaglul Hayder, the local MP from Satkhira 4 constituency, said a water plant had already been installed in the Burigoalini area to alleviate the drinking water crisis.
Meanwhile, he has already started working with the upazila administration to solve the drinking water crisis in other unions.
He further said: “We have sent a proposal to the LGRD ministry for the necessary allocations needed to overcome the acute shortage of potable water in the coastal unions.
“The proposals include various projects, including institutional rainwater harvesting (100,000 liter capacity), re-excavation of ponds, household-basis rainwater harvesting, installation of deep tube wells, installation of reverse osmosis plants and installation of solar operated pond sand filters.”