Don’t wait until there’s a crisis
We normally don’t like to talk about water, or safe drinking water and the impending crisis about it, unless there is a crisis.
We take it for granted that this is a subject that will only be discussed in the seminars and workshops. To my mind, our attitude towards the impending water stress globally is a very piecemeal one. Despite water being one of the most important elements for the human race to survive, we humans don’t seem to care about our next course of action.
Very recently, the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas has run a study and ranked water stress, drought risk, and riverine flood risk across 189 countries. According to WRI, 17 countries across the world are in serious water crisis.
The WRI said these countries use 80% of their underground water for their agriculture and industries. The demand for water increases during the dry season and due to the impact of climate change, the demand has been increasing further every year. The study says, this can lead to dangerous consequences. These countries may have the same fate as Brazil’s Sao Paolo, and India’s Chennai.
The CEO of WRI said, despite the water crisis being the worst problem, no one is talking about it. Everybody is more interested in food security, conflicts, migration, and economic recession.
India has triple the population of the other 16 countries that are experiencing severe water stresses -- Indian Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources Shashi Shekhar highlighted their priority, saying Chennai was a case in point, and there were many other regions in the country that were going to face a long-term water crisis. He welcomed the WRI study, saying this information may help their country in the long run.
When I looked at the stress map published by WRI, Bangladesh was mentioned as a green country. The study hasn’t yet marked Bangladesh as a stressed country.
However, all is not well in our country. Our capital city Dhaka relies heavily on underground water reserves. Experts have said that underground reserves are reducing rapidly due to the rise in the demand of water.
They say Wasa pumps these days are failing to excavate water from beneath the ground; they now require to go deeper to fetch water.
The situation, the experts said, will get worse, and we will be in serious trouble if we don’t do anything about it right now. Botanists think this will be a disaster for the nature in this city. The trees will be affected.
An engineering expert has been quoted as saying that there is absolutely no progress as far as our underground water level is concerned. Rather, he opined, the situation is getting worse every day. However, we hear that Dhaka Wasa has planned some measures regarding this. If Wasa plans fail, the city-dwellers have a very tough time ahead.
It has been reported that Dhaka’s underground water level is going down by one metre every year. Water from the adjacent rivers cannot be used, due to extreme pollution, making it very difficult to purify. The government is trying, but the treatment plants are failing to make the water safe for use. This polluted water is also impacting the underground water.
The vacuum under the ground is supposed to be filled up naturally, the experts say. But the surface across the city is shrouded with concrete, and that’s why the water cannot seep through. As the open spaces are being covered, the rain water cannot fill up the vacuum under the ground.
However, Wasa says they are currently emphasizing on supplying surface water. Presently, 70% of the supply water comes from underground reserves, and only 30% comes from surface sources. They think they can reverse the scenario by 2021. Initiatives have been taken to utilize water from Padma and Meghna rivers.
According to Wasa numbers, currently we are producing more water than the demand, and thereby finishing up underground sources. Dhaka’s water supplying authority are trying to reduce this pressure through three projects.
Fine. Great news. But what about the rest of the country? We have been getting news from across the country or regions where the levels of underground water have also gone down. It’s not only the people of Dhaka who are overusing our water resources. Do we know what exactly the situations are in the regions outside Dhaka? We don’t know. We don’t have a collective survey on the underground water level for the country.
It is imperative that we have that. Otherwise, with this dense population, Bangladesh may be in real trouble when water stresses start affecting us.
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.