Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Safe drinking water disappearing fast in Bangladesh

Syful Islam in the Global Development Network in the Guardian (UK) via the Thomas Reuters Foundation: The availability of safe drinking water, particularly in Bangladesh's hard to reach areas, is expected to worsen as the country experiences the effects of climate change, experts say.

According to a study by the World Bank's water and sanitation programme..., about 28 million Bangladeshis, or just over 20% of the population, are living in harsh conditions in the "hard-to-reach areas" that make up a quarter of the country's landmass. The study found that char – land that emerges from riverbeds as a result of the deposit of sediments – is among the most inaccessible, along with hilly areas, coastal regions and haors – bowl-shaped wetland areas in north-east Bangladesh.

"People living in hard-to-reach areas are often vulnerable to natural calamities like flooding, riverbank erosion and siltation," said Rokeya Ahmed, a water and sanitation specialist at the World Bank. "As a result of climate change, salinity in Bangladesh's coastal areas has increased [a great deal], causing a lack of sweet water. Women in coastal and haor areas need to go miles to collect a pitcher of safe drinking water."

Worsening weather extremes that bring floods, storm surges and cyclones are contributing to increases in water salinity and other problems accessing clean water, the report said. Shahdat Hossain, a grocer in Matlab district, a hard-to-reach area about 50km (31 miles) from the capital, Dhaka, said his town is subject to regular riverbank erosion and flooding.

"Riverbank erosion has turned many people in this area into refugees," he said. "Since this area is very close to the Bay of Bengal, the amount of arsenic in the groundwater is also very high. We need to dig much deeper to get arsenic-free water."...

A 2007 aerial view of damage from Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh, US Navy photo

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