WORLD WATER DAY 2011: Call for concerted efforts to ensure the rights of safe water
Dhaka, 22 March 2011: Amid widening inequalities, rapidly expanding urban areas and increasing unavailability of safe water, speakers urged for urgent action at a national seminar in Dhaka to mark World Water Day 2011.
Dr. A.F.M Ruhal Haque Minister of Health and Family Welfare was the chief guest, while Ad Spijkers, the UN Resident Coordinator a.i and Mr. Abu Alam Md. Shahid Khan, Secretary of Local Government Division, Ministry of the Local Government and Rural Development & Co-operatives presided over the inaugural session. Dr. Takao Toda, Chief Representative of JICA Bangladesh, was the special guest.
The theme of the World Water Day 2011 is ‘Water in cities – responding to the urban challenge’. The water supply and sanitation sector development plan released yesterday by the Government of Bangladesh estimates a budget gap of 47 percent, or about US$1.4 billion for water supply and sanitation sector between 2010 and 2015.
'Actions have been taken to address water quantity, quality and security issues by several United Nations agencies in Bangladesh.' said Ad Spijkers, UN Resident Coordinator a.i. 'Concerted efforts by the government and all stakeholders are necessary to meet the urban and rural challenges in Bangladesh, including to close the growing gap of inequalities in rapidly expanding urban centres and to ensure the right to safe and clean water to all' he says.
By 2035, more than half of Bangladesh’s population will live in urban areas – an estimated 110 million people. About 35 percent of the population of the city corporations lives in slums, and does so on only 4 percent of the land area where basic urban social services including water are lacking. The investment need for urban and rural water supply between 2010 and 2015 is estimated to be USD 2.36 billion and 0.64 billion, respectively.
According to the Joint Monitoring Programme of WHO and UNICEF a great cause of concern is that access to improved drinking water sources in urban areas of Bangladesh has declined from 88% in 1990 to 85% in 2008.
In slums where there is no formal provision of water, sanitation drainage or waste disposal services, middle men (mastaans) control access to water brought in often from illegal sources and charge exorbitant prices. Such water is frequently contaminated by pathogens, 6.2% of water samples from urban areas contain greater than 0.05 milligrams per litre of arsenic, which is the Bangladesh drinking water standard, according to MICS 2009 report by BBS and UNICEF.
According to the Understanding Urban Inequalities in Bangladesh report by UNICEF, many social development indicators relating to water are often worse for slum areas than they are for rural and other urban areas. For example, the under five child mortality rate is 95 per 1000 live births for urban slums, 44% higher than rural areas. A particular problem for Dhaka is the declining water table caused by extensive pumping of the groundwater. This calls into question the sustainability of the water supply for this mega city.
Despite significant progress, 13% of drinking water samples tested in 2009 contained unsafe levels of arsenic (> 0.05 milligrams per litre) putting an estimated 22 million people at risk of developing numerous arsenic related diseases. In addition, a staggering 5.6 million people are exposed to levels greater than 0.2 milligrams per litre.
New data in the National Drinking Water Quality Survey 2009 by BBS and UNICEF showed that about 40% of drinking water samples contain more than 1.0 milligrams per litre of iron (which affects taste) and that 35% of drinking water samples contain more than 0.4 milligrams per litre of manganese which may affect human health. The removal of iron and manganese although simpler than removal of arsenic from drinking water, nevertheless is an additional barrier for arsenic mitigation.
The Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE) has proposed an ambitious project to install 60,900 safe water options in 406 priority unions under 73 upazila of 22 districts. The “very high” and “high” priority unions were identified in a study, Situation Analysis of Arsenic Mitigation 2009 by DPHE and JICA. The Government of Bangladesh has expressed an interest to establish a multi-sectoral arsenic mitigation fund to address issues in health, water supply and agriculture.
Note for Editor:
For more information contact:
• Engr. Md. Nuruzzaman, Chief Engineer, Departhment of Public Health and Enigneering, Tel: (+88) 02 9343358