Govt undertakes project to increase people’s access to safe drinking water in rural communities

With a view to increasing people’s access to safe drinking water free from arsenic and pathogen in rural communities, the government has undertaken a project titled `Bangladesh Water Supply Program Project (BWSPP)’ with assistance of the World Bank.

The project is piloting among other innovative measures like the small-scale piped water in villages to shift households from arsenic contaminated tube-wells through local public private partnership model involving private sponsors.

The BWSP project is strongly focused on rural and urban poor, helping them to access to arsenic and pathogen free water in sufficient quantities, an official of the World Bank has said, mentioning that under the project the World Bank is providing the financial assistance to the government as “grants not loan.”

With the help of the project, now 21 villages throughout the country are enjoying access to safe water through small-scale piped water provision. Out of 21 schemes, four schemes are now providing water supply to village inhabitants while the rest 17 schemes are under implementation. Typically, a rural piped water scheme supports a village with up to 1000 to 1400 households.

For each of the schemes, the world Bank grant covers 70 percent of the cost and the remaining 30 percent is borne by private or NGO financing that is recovered from the revenue earnings over 18 year operational period.

In the early 90s, a vast majority of rural population had extensive and convenient water supply due to the spread of shallow tube-wells. Rural consumers themselves installed and maintained these tube wells.

This success was countered by a setback with the discovery of arsenic contamination of groundwater at the depth of 200-250 meters across large parts of the country. By late 90s water from 20 percent tube-wells was no longer safe for domestic use.

Bangladesh, therefore, needed an alternative water supply technology to serve the rural population. Studies show that not only the rural people preferred piped schemes but they were willing to pay for this service. The BWSP project is covering a major portion of the capital cost.

Piped water can supply safe water in coastal and hilly areas or in geological pockets where shallow tube-well is not an option.

Other than rural piped water scheme, the BWSP project is also helping to expand and rehabilitate water supply system in 24 selected municipalities as well as facilitating to set up deep tube-wells in different parts of the country including the cyclone Sidr/Aila affected districts.

Besides, the project is piloting arsenic mitigation activities through modified institutional arrangement involving communities and local government institutions to respond to the arsenic crisis through awareness building, training and management of arsenic mitigation activities in hot-spot unions of three upazilas of Munshiganj district.

Under this pilot component, Ward Arsenic Mitigation Water User Group (WAMWUG) was formed to identify and plan low cost options to provide sustainable supplies of arsenic-safe water.

Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural development and Cooperatives is implementing the BWSPP.

While visiting the project site of Nalta Sharif rural piped water supply scheme at Kaliganj upazila in Satkhira district, the correspondent found that some 367 household connections were already given under the scheme and the rural people have expressed satisfaction over the supply of piped water.

Sponsored by Dhaka Ahsania Mission, the Nalta Sharif rural piped water supply scheme has fulfilled the required criteria under the BWSP project. The Nalta Sharif rural piped water supply scheme, one of the dominating schemes among the targeted 21 schemes of the BWSPP, was officially inaugurated on December 26 last year.

“We had to collect drinking water from places some 4-5 kilometers away before initiation of the supply of piped water. Now we’re getting the piped water at our doorsteps,” a middle aged woman at Nalta Shaif village said.

She informed that piped water (used only for drinking) is supplied two times daily in exchange of Tk 100 per month after having a connection by paying Tk 1000. “We’re satisfied with the piped water as we’re now getting the drinking water at our doorsteps,” she said.


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