POST TIME: 12 October, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 12 October, 2018 01:46:42 AM
E.coli presence in 80pc tap water
Says WB report on Bangladesh’s water supply

E.coli presence in 80pc tap water

A new World Bank (WB) report says though 98 per cent of the total population of Bangladesh have access to water from technologically improved sources, the quality of water is poor. "E.coli bacteria are present in 80 per cent of the private piped-water taps sampled across the country, a similar rate to water retrieved from ponds,” it adds. Despite the country’s remarkable progress in improving access to water and sanitation, 41 per cent of all improved water sources are contaminated with E.coli bacteria, suggesting a high prevalence of fecal contamination, says the WB report.

The World Bank published the report titled ‘Promising Progress: A Diagnostic of Water Supply, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Poverty in Bangladesh’ at a city hotel yesterday.

State minister for water resources Muhammad Nazrul Islam, LGRD ministry senior secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan, WB acting country director for Bangladesh Sereen Juma and LGRD ministry additional secretary Begum Roxana Quader spoke on the occasion.

WB senior economist George Joseph, who is also the report’s co-author, presented the ‘key findings of the Bangladesh WASH poverty diagnostics’ along with Mark John Ellery, who is a senior water and sanitation expert.

According to the report, Bangladesh can reduce poverty and accelerate growth faster by taking urgent actions to improve the quality of water and sanitation.

The report finds that the poor quality of drinking water affects both urban and rural populations.  The poorest quintile of the population suffers three times more than others from water- and sanitation-related gastro-intestinal diseases, the report states.

Moreover, naturally occurring arsenic in groundwater also affects people. About 13 per cent of the country’s water sources contain arsenic levels above the threshold level. Chittagong and Sylhet divisions suffer the most from arsenic contamination.

Climate change has been increasing the intensity and frequency of natural disasters that disrupt water and sanitation services. During times of a disaster, about a third of households in the country’s high-risk areas switch to contaminated water sources. Coastal areas are increasingly suffering from salinity-intrusion.

Bangladesh has successfully eliminated the practice of open defecation. However, about 50 million people use shared rudimentary toilets and only 28 per cent of the toilets are equipped with soap and water.

In urban areas, slums have poor access to clean water and safe sanitation. Large city slums have five times less access to improved sanitation. These areas also have the highest rates of malnourished childhood in the country.

“Poor water quality and sanitation can hold back a country’s potential because these issues are linked with nutritional disadvantages in early childhood,” said Sereen Juma.

“In Bangladesh, more than one-third of the children aged under five years are stunted. This limits their ability to grow and learn. Bangladesh has made great strides in expanding access to water and can build on that progress by focusing on improving the quality of water and sanitation,” she added.

“There is scope for Bangladesh to improve access to sanitation beyond the household level to public places, schools, health facilities and workplaces,” said George Joseph.

“Only about half of manufacturing enterprises in Bangladesh have toilets. Only half of the primary schools have separate toilets for girls. One in four adolescent girls miss school during menstruation. A safe water and sanitation environment will encourage more women to participate in the workforce,” he added.

The government has taken up various steps to ensure safe water for the people, Muhammad Nazrul Islam said.

“We’re some serious problems with the rising population. It’s true that many people are still deprived of life-sustaining elements like water. So, we have to ensure safe water for future,” he added. The summary report presents the findings of the Bangladesh WASH Poverty Diagnostic (BWPD) study, led by the World Bank’s Water and Poverty Global Practices.

Although very few Bangladeshis now fetch water from rivers or defecate in fields, the vast majority still live in environments plagued by inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). This hinders the country's overall development.

 The report offers recommendations for moving the country's WASH sector forward.