The capital’s slum dwellers with access to official water supply consume 3.5 times less water than that of the affluent people though they all pay the same price, found a study of Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD).
Slum dwellers and other informal settlers pay at least seven times higher for inadequate water than the official rate of Tk 11 per thousand litres, said Mohammad Sirajul Islam, head of BIGD’s state of cities programme, while presenting the study findings at Brac Centre yesterday.
Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) provides water to 6.5 lakhs or at best 16 percent of the city’s informal settlements, he said citing the study on water governance in the capital.
While the affluent living in areas like Gulshan and Banani consume an average of 310-litre water per person daily, a slum dweller uses an average of 85 litres. The standard requirement is 150 litres per person, Sirajul Islam said.
Based on affordability, per capita water consumption increases with higher income far beyond standard actual need. It means, there is a serious concern of inefficient water consumption and waste, thanks to inadequate water governance, he added.
That apart, 10 families in a building with a common water meter, for example, pay equal share though all the families do not consume the same amount. It also leads to waste of water, as there is no reward for saving water, said Sirajul Islam.
Despite the ever-depleting groundwater table in Dhaka and pollution of surface water sources, Wasa still depends on mining groundwater (78 percent) and the rest on purified surface water for its total daily production.
Though Wasa has undertaken three capital-intensive surface water treatment projects since 2010, it has simultaneously increased installing deep tube wells by 38 percent.
So, safe water management in Dhaka is in a deplorable state with highly inefficient water consumption, excessive dependence on groundwater and fast disappearing retention areas, found the study.
The Detailed Area Plan of Dhaka in 2010 identified 5,523 acres of conservable water retention areas that came down to 1,744 acres in 2017, according to a Rajuk finding, the study cited.
The study recommended household water management with individual metered water connection for rational consumption, harvesting rainwater, reusing water and putting an end to contaminating available river water.
Dhaka Wasa Managing Director Taqsem A Khan said according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, there are one million slum dwellers in the capital. But, Taqsem said,
the figure is double according to Centre for Urban Studies, and they officially provide half of them with safe water.
By 2021, Wasa aims at shifting two-third dependency on surface water, he said, adding that it is not easy to make water service a success with the exact number of population in the capital unknown.
He said ground percolation in Dhaka is almost at a halt with flood flow zones and retention areas filled up.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said there is no credible information on the status of Dhaka’s groundwater.
She demanded that the Wasa MD disclose all proposed water projects for public debate.
Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Md Tazul Islam, among others, spoke while BIGD Executive Director Imran Matin conducted the discussion on the study findings.