The district administration of Bagerhat, in collaboration with the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), has started emergency supply of water from five mobile water purification plants in Mongla, Morrelganj and Sharankhola -- three of the upazilas that are facing severe drought and water scarcity.
However, since a large number of people are waiting in queues for hours every day in front of the water dispensing trucks, it is apparent that the amount of water being distributed from each unit is inadequate, said residents of the affected areas.
Bagerhat is a coastal district where tube wells are not installed due to high salinity in groundwater. Hence, locals have to rely on harvested rainwater or filtered freshwater from ponds for consumption and everyday use.
Recently, waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea broke out in a number of upazilas in the district after residents were compelled to consume saline water, as the freshwater sources dried up in months of drought.
Despite the ongoing heat wave, people in the affected areas are now seen scouring nearby villages in search of potable water.
Jannati Khatun, a homemaker in Khuriakhali village of Sharankhola upazila, said, "Tube wells are of no use in our area due to salinity. We have to depend on ponds and rainwater.
"But this year, extreme heat dried up water in the ponds. Water in the canals also has high salinity. So, we have no choice but consume the saline water and use it for bathing."
Many of them are having stomach aches while many others are falling sick due to the consumption of saline water, she also said.
Ruma, from Panirghat area in the upazila, said she was going home after collecting a pitcher of water from a pond in a neighbouring village.
Two members in her family had to be hospitalised for several days after they contracted diarrhoea, she added.
In Morrelganj, Saleha Begum was returning home carrying a jar filled with purified water that she got from a DPHE dispenser truck. She said she had not been able to find potable water in the area over the past 25 days and survival this way was getting quite difficult.
Hasibul from Rayenda Bazar area in Sharankhola upazila said he had to wait two hours before he got his turn to get water from a water purification unit in the area.
He also said that it is unimaginable how hundreds of people have to wait eagerly in lines every day in the scorching sun, for some drinking water.
Rayenda Union Parishad Chairman Asaduzzaman Milon said about 1.5 lakh residents of the union depend on harvested rainwater as well as on water preserved in ponds.
Although water is being dispensed from mobile water purifying units in the area, the dispensing capacity is below the local demand, he observed.
DPHE Executive Engineer FM Ismail Hossain said that following visits in the severely affected areas, the DPHE, in collaboration with the district administration, set up two mobile water purification units in Mongla, one in Morrelganj and two in Sharankhola upazilas.
Each unit is capable of dispensing 600 litres of purified water every hour, he said, adding that they would continue the service until the water scarcity in the areas is resolved.
Bagerhat Deputy Commissioner ANM Faizul Haque said that with the help of the DPHE, they were working on to meet local demands for purified water in the affected areas.
In the meantime, people in those areas should only consume water that is either boiled or purified with water purifying tablets, he advised.