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Tatulia: A Bangladesh village in dire need of safe water

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2008/ Kiron
18-year-old Dilshad (front left, in green) facilitates a community discussion about hygiene and sanitation by using a hand-drawn map of the village of Tatulia.

Arifa S. Sharmin

TATULIA, Bangladesh, 29 January 2008 – Tatulia, a small village at the bank of the Modhumoti river, is home to around 116 families. Last year, erosion from the river washed away one fourth of the village. Some people left the village altogether, while others moved to safer locations.

Aleya is a 60-year-old woman who has lived most of her life in Tatulia. Over the years, she has often watched parts of her beloved village succumbing to the river. She has been forced to move three times in the last ten years.

However, it is not only erosion which plagues the lives of those who live in this village. They also face a serious lack of clean water.

Seemingly no solution

“Over the last few years, we have faced acute problems of safe drinking water,” Aleya explains. “We have to drink arsenic-contaminated water as all the tube well pumps are contaminated, except one.” 

In an effort to avoid the contaminated wells, residents use unsanitary pond water for washing, bathing and cooking. Open defecation beside the pond is a common practice and most of the toilets are also situated within close distance of the ponds. Because of this, diarrhoea and skin diseases are common among children here. Families must spend what little money they have to buy medicine.

 “Some government officials checked the pumps for arsenic and marked them in red around ten years ago. Now, we do not have any choice other than to use arsenic-contaminated water,” notes Monnu, a 45-year-old carpenter.

Reaching millions with safe water

With assistance from UNICEF, The Bangladeshi Department of Public Health Engineering has implemented a project which will ensure that proper water and sanitation resources reach those who need them most.  It is estimated that between 2007 and 2011, the project will reach 30 million people.

Dilshad is an 18-year-old a Community Hygiene Promoter from a local non-governmental organization who works for a project known as Sanitation, Hygiene, Education and Water Supply in Bangladesh (SHEWA-B) which is supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.

Dilshad received a two-week training last March and since then, she has worked to improve hygiene practices among the villagers of Tatulia.
 
“People always ask for free tube wells and latrines when I visit them,” Dilshad says. “I speak with them about bad hygiene practices and their impact on health and income. They listen to me, but it will take time for them to habituate themselves to the new behaviors.”

For now, the pond water is still the only water the community feels safe using.

“Most importantly, we need to secure a supply of safe water,” Dilshad adds. “They don’t have any alternative but to use either arsenic-contaminated water or dirty pond water.”

 

 

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